Western to host Beat poetry event


Imagine a half packed small theater with low lighting. There are two men on stage, one in the background. He is wearing a black turtleneck, sunglasses and a beret. His hands are rapidly beating a small bongo drum to a staccato beat. The man center stage is standing in front of a microphone, his goatee barley scraping it as he  recites poetry to the rhythm of the drums. In the audience the faces look intrigued, shocked and appalled. The poem the man is reciting is Alan Ginsburg’s “Howl”.

This scene could be set to take place at Missouri Western State University on Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in room 214. The show is called the Happening, and it promises to be a night of improv, poetry and music in the style of the beats.

OffnerThe organizer of the event is Edy Offner, a western sophomore, who feels that this style of creative outlet is long overdue on our campus.

“I really love writing and I really love music,” Offner said. “I will say something in my writing that I would never find myself saying: where I write is where I truly am.”

With such an off-the-wall event taking place, some Western students remained uninformed of the creative event. Western junior Justin Peacock is blissfully unaware of the event or even what its function is.

“What’s a poetry slam?” Peacock said while remaining open to the idea. “I would guess that I would like to hear some poetry.”

Offner sets her vision to a wide-ranging scale when it comes to defining what the event should be.

“Rules?” Offner exclaimed. “Be as forthcoming, offensive and real as life permits you. Let’s start something. We are intelligent human beings, for one night; let’s act like it.”

Many Western students feel that creating the foundation for something bigger is needed on the literary scene. Western junior Mary Stone provides one reason for the significance of the Happening.

“There are a lot of really talented creative writers, and there is not much to do for them,” Stone said. “They need to create their own community. This will give them a chance for that.”

Western sophomore Ryan Richardson sees an opportunity in the Happening that is not oft presented.

“I am excited for a free-form exchange of ideas,” Richardson said. “On this campus, sometimes it does not always present itself easily.”

With word circulating the campus after the appearance of the bizarre flyers announcing the Happening, there are hopes in creating a student draw to the free event.

“I went around and talked to a lot of people,” Offner said. “I made a point of talking to the English majors I know, many of the English teachers. I put something in the mailbox of all the
music professors. I talked to video, art and theater kids. I went to the Acoustic Café and talked to a bunch of the adults. I am trying to get a hold of a wide variety of people. I even got a hold of my old high school English teacher from Lafayette.”

It is hard to say what kind of pieces will be read at something like this. Ultimately, the students will choose what voice they want to express.

“I am a big fan of the evolution of language,” Stone said. “ I think that is what leads me to enjoy poetry so much. I have a couple of poems; I might read.”

In hopes of creating a new beat scene, Offner encourages students to bring their unabashed creativity in all its naked fury.

“I was reading an article in the “Village Voice” about the Beat generation,” Offner said. “And it described the scene as destabilizing the expected standards of life and art, and that is what I want to bring to this open mic night.”

That is not so different than the aims of the original beat kings of the ‘50s. As Alan Ginsburg said:

“Once when Kerouac was high on psychedelics with Timothy Leary, he looked out the window and said, ‘Walking on water wasn’t built in a day.’ Our goal was to save the planet and alter human consciousness. That will take a long time, if it happens at all.”

It will be Happening on April 25 at 7 p.m. in Spratt 214. Come at 6:15 p.m. if you want. There will be a party at the Café Acoustic afterwards to all those of appropriate age.

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