Review: Unspoken Word

Unspoken Word Open Mic

King Dusko

Charleston, South Carolina


I was late, as usual. Trying to cook dinner before I go somewhere is always a bad idea if punctuality is key. I’ll never learn, though.

Despite our late departure and the bizarre wind that was going on outside, we hopped on our bikes and headed down to King Dusko, a relatively new coffee shop by day, wine/beer bar by night (plus art gallery all the time?), where the open mic I read about a few weeks ago was happening

The interior of the coffee shop/bar is marked by white walls that are covered in art and an eclectic array of chairs and tables. The wine and beer selection is small but curated; I have yet to try their coffee. For the open mic, they had a small stage and had rearranged the seating around it. It was a very informal atmosphere, relaxing and welcoming, which was good, since walking in after an open mic has already started is never an ideal situation. There’s no way to get in there without people realizing you were late. Plus, you just have to face the fact that you’re going to have to struggle for a seat.

And so it was when my roommate and I carefully tiptoed inside. The poet onstage was reciting something that sounded like an open letter to America type of piece, which was actually the best we could hope for–there was a lot of crescendoing of volume as we tried to inconspicuously grab chairs near two friends we were meeting.

But then, we were settled, and even with the wild wind and the whirlwind of the previous thirty minutes, I found it easy to mellow back to that familiar setting of poet, microphone, stage and words.

The first thing I noticed: how young! Charleston is a college town, I realize, but the average age of this poetry open mic was surely around twenty, which is fine, just not exactly what I first expected, coming from Atlanta’s Java Monkey venue. The bimonthly event is fairly new–one of its organizers told me they had their first event in December 2013. The emcees are certainly energetic, though–especially when it comes to their call-out/tagline (Leave no word UNSPOKEN)–and the poets/audience attentive.

As for the quality of the work, it, as might be expected, varied. I hesitate to go into much of a critique because open mics are first and foremost about sharing work that is important to the writer, and many of the young poets who got on stage spoke from a very authentic place. Anyone can appreciate the dedication they put into their verses, and listening to these pieces opened little windows into the writers’ lives that was truly enriching. (And I can honestly say, I had no moments of uncomfortable seat-squirming–you know what I’m talking about.)

Now, with some of the poets who were more experienced, I feel I can be a bit more critical. One of the emcees had good poetry, but his delivery was difficult to understand–his pace got too fast, and his words weren’t enunciated well enough. The other emcee’s first piece wasn’t my cup of tea, but the piece he recited from memory toward the end of the evening that was originally written as a page poem was quite beautiful. Even with his halting beginning (he had some trouble pulling up the piece from memory–but he fully recovered, which is always impressive), the three-part piece was easily the best I think I heard that night.

Overall, the variance between poets was probably the most intriguing aspect of this open mic: one played with his cadence to emphasize his rhymes, which didn’t always include the entire word; another was a page poet whose piece dove into the complications of a romantic relationship. I hope it stays this way as the event continues–it would be a shame if everyone started to sound like the same spoken word artists,though  obviously some of that will begin to happen as people gather momentum from being at the open mic itself.

The event definitely has the feeling of still getting its feet on the ground, but the organizers seem dedicated to opening up the Charleston poetry scene–they made several announcements about other events and had the organizers of other open mic venues come and read. On my next visit, I hope to speak to them more so I can add a coda to this piece with more background information.

In the meantime, King Dusko’s website and the Charleston Poets website will have the most up-to-date information on the days the open mic is happening. If you’re in the area on one of the days, it’s worth your while to stop in.

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