Returning to Creative Communities

A few days ago, I headed out to a local park where my brilliant poet friend, Lorenz Mazon Dumuk, was hosting Glowing with the Moon, a summer open mic series that invites poets, musicians, performers, and other creative souls to come out and share their work. It’s one of my favorite open mics, mostly because Lorenz creates such a warm, welcoming, and fun space.

When I arrived, however, it was just Lorenz and me, so we sat on the park bench and spent two hours chatting about what was going on in our lives, what kind of creative work we were doing, and our current trajectory. We talked about how we approach our poetry and other kinds of writing. We talked about poetry that bullies, forcing the reader or listener down a path and leaving no space for anything outside the focus of the words themselves. We laughed about poop in poetry, both as a subject and as an analogy for writing, how a writer might find themselves blocked up and need some fiber-full reading to help loosen things up. We talked about poetry with spirit and poetry grounded in the flesh and bone reality of grass and stone and wind and bone. And we celebrated the fact that we both have new poetry books coming out sometime within the next year.

Then we read poems to each other, each giving something that we’d written recently, and we found ourselves delightedly jealous of each other’s unique way of approaching words. And as the Earth cartwheeled backwards, hiding the Sun behind trees and horizon, with the peach light splashing upon the dappled clouds, I was so grateful for this small moment of creative community — two poets sharing a joy of words and the world.

* * *

Back in April, I attended another event — the Poetry Invitational 2023, held at the San Jose Museum of Art and hosted by Tshaka Campbell. For the event, poets are invited to select art from the current exhibition and write an ekphrastic poem about the painting or sculpture. During the poetry readings, the audience follows the poets through the various exhibits of the museum, and each poet reads their poem next to the work of art that inspired it.

This year’s Poetry Invitational featured Keana Aguila LabraSophia RodriguezJoseph Jason Santiago LacourTureeda MikellTongo Eisen-MartinAsha Sudra, Lorenz Mazon Dumuk, Arlene BialaRobert PesichMinerva KamraJen Siraganian, and Chris Locsin.

Top: Lorenz Mazon Dumuk reads his response to "Weep" by artist Kelly Akashi. Bottom Left: Sophia Rodriguez reads her response to "Sky Cathedral by artist Louise Nevelson. Bottom Right: Asha Sudra reads her response to "Swell" by artist Kelly Akashi.
Top: Lorenz Mazon Dumuk reads his response to “Weep” by artist Kelly Akashi. Bottom Left: Sophia Rodriguez reads her response to “Sky Cathedral by artist Louise Nevelson. Bottom Right: Asha Sudra reads her response to “Swell” by artist Kelly Akashi.

The last time I attended an in-person event of this sort was before the pandemic. I used to go to open mics and readings often, and returning to this community was wonderful. I saw so many familiar faces — poets and artists whose work I admired. We smiled and said hello before joining the flock of the audience as we flowed from room to room like a murmuration of starlings.

And again, I found myself grateful — for the art, for the reading of poetry, for the community that inspires me to want to experiment and create new work.

* * *

I often joke with family and friends about the fact that I could be a happy little hermit. Just put me in a cottage in the woods with a ton of books and I would quite joyfully live in isolation, reading, writing, sketching, and walking among the trees, as well as watching movies and making and playing video games.

But attending these events reminds me how important community is for me. Whether it’s just listening to the words of other poets and writers, joining in and reading my own work on the mic, or sitting down and discussing the creative process and the things we love — these moments are so inspiring to me.

If I were to add one thing to my discussion of goals for 2023, it would be that I would like to attend more literary and creatively engaged events throughout the year. This could be readings, open mics, game writing meetups, genre conventions, workshops, or whatever else might continue to help me connect with the creative communities that I love so much.

Are creative communities important to you? Do you need them in person? Or does online work, too?

This post was first published in my newsletter on August 9, 2023. If you would like to receive monthly (ish) updates on writing, narrative, and the writing life, you can subscribe

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