The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Loch Norse Magazine holds open mic night, coffee chat Tuesday night

Kathy Dubois
A flyer for Willow Carver and Open Mic event.

About 70 people sat in the Eva G. Farris Reading Room on the second floor of Steely Library waiting patiently for the Loch Norse Magazine event to start.

The soft chatter dulls out quickly when Willie Carver, author of award-winning book “Gay Poems for Red States,” gets introduced. Everyone waits, holding in silent excitement as he makes his way to the podium near the back windows of the room.

He takes a breath before beginning to tell the story of how the first poem “Minnie Mouse Toy” came to be. He explains how it started off as an anger-filled email to his superintendent at the time about his students receiving threats because of him teaching them as an LGBTQ+ member. He further explains how the poem began to appear in the middle of his email and how he decided to not send the email, but rather he decided to write “Minnie Mouse Toy.”

He explained that “all of (his) writing (were) for (his) students,” as he went on to read five more poems from his book before opening the mic up to students.

Katrina Rolssen, a freshman English major, was one of the students who decided to speak at the open mic. She had two pieces with her. The first piece is titled “Girl in the mirror” and it’s a poem written for her creative writing class.

“I wrote it for my creative writing class, and we had to write a poem incorporating a last line from another poem,” Rolssen said.

Her second piece is titled “On the way home from the grocery store, I find hope.” 

“It’s just about how I like to look at the little spots of forest along the road on the way home and I find hope in those places,” Rolssen said. “It’s like, oh, look, there’s still wilderness out there.”

Jack Siebenaler, a junior history and anthropology major, was another speaker who shared three pieces.  The first one is titled “Love Song” which is based on some modernism poems Siebenaler read at the time.

“I wanted to try to write my own piece of it, so I kind of took the same structure and made my own story,” he said.

The second piece is titled “As I was moving ahead, I saw brief glimpses of beauty,” and it’s based off of a documentary that he watched.

“That was a documentary that I watched, and some of the pieces in there are from poems that are interjected into the movie that really stuck with me,” Siebenaler said. “And I kind of built my own world around that and my own self and story into that and what I was feeling at the time.”

 His last piece is an untitled one that’s similar to a Sylvia Plath piece which helped him experience his own kind of writing.

“That one really helped me figure out how I like to write, and it has meant a lot to me because it was like ‘I feel good about this,’” he said. “This is my voice and I like how it sounds.”

This was something that Rolssen mentioned for other readers and writers who haven’t experienced an open mic before.

“If you have ever considered going to an open mic or sharing your poetry or writing in any form, do it. It’s empowering and it’s such a great thing to do,” Rolssen said. “Even if you’re scared. Go for it. I believe in you.”

Coffee chat

Sweet treats and coffee with a dash of poetry awaited students on Tuesday night as Loch Norse hosted a coffee chat before their open mic night.

Kristine Yohe, an English professor, teaches an honors class called Marginalized Kentucky Writers where they recently read “Gay Poems for Red States” by Willie Carver.

“We started with some short works from other authors. The first full length work we’ve read was “Gay Poems for Red States,” Yohe said. “I was fortunate that he came to our class today.”

This experience of speaking with Carver came after months of planning.

“Kelly [Moffett] and I talked about it last summer, and Mark Neikirk with Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement helped us make it happen,” she said.

Students sat around a rectangular table in room 102 of the Steely Library waiting to meet Carver in a special informal coffee chat before the open mic.

During the chat, students and professors went around asking different questions about Carver’s book and his advice on certain topics in teaching. Carver also explained some of his personal beliefs and experiences that went into his writings as well as how his teaching allowed him to realize what he wanted, and needed, to write.

“I saw a younger version of myself, almost as a separate person, I recognized that he was the same person,” Carver said. “But when I started thinking about him, and thinking about my students at the same time, it seemed all the more important to get his voice out there.”

He also explained a bit about how he started writing “Gay Poems for Red States.”

“I think the need to use writing is something that can help people and I think because I wasn’t directly helping students day in and day out that I needed to do something that I thought could help as many people as possible.”

One student asked if Carver had any poems where he “had to take a step back.” He explained that there was one poem that didn’t make it into his collection for this reason. It’s titled “Requiem for a Dollar Store Christmas Bear” and it’s published elsewhere. Though Carver used this question to explore the concept of writing poetry in a “safe place” by describing how you can write a poem about an object or a different area if there’s too much emotional toll to write about the actual situation. This is how he was able to write “Requiem for a Dollar Store Christmas Bear” without needing any more step backs.

Kelly Moffett, an English professor, asked Carver about his view on workshops. Carver mostly expressed excitement about the concept but also gave some advice along the lines of, “Before touching someone else’s work, remember you don’t have the same thoughts, feelings, or experiences. Be sensitive to their work.”

Onyinye Uwolloh, an NKU staff member, expressed a connection to his thoughts about being open toward other people’s works and their experiences.

“He said something earlier during the casual conversation that when you hear poetry, you have to understand that it’s coming from their lived experiences,” Uwolloh said. “And you might not necessarily identify with their specific experiences, but you can identify with the story.”

This also reminded her of how Carver explained how his students and his school are some of the reasons he was able to have this openness about writing. This connection he made about his community reminded Uwolloh of how she started on campus as an abroad student.

“It was his teacher and school that showed him that he could rise above that and that’s also how he poured that into his students, it got me thinking about how I even came to NKU,” she said. “When I got to NKU I formed my community here and made great friendships of people, terrific professors, had great mentors, and I realized that I can deeply relate. I was really inspired by that.”