Word of mouth
“Poets, here in Reno anyway, aren’t the dominating presence (in the entertainment scene),” says Tony Walker. “I think that’s why poets are coming out to Spoken Views and expressing themselves. They see a different avenue for open-mics that’s for them.”
Spoken Views is a monthly open-mic poetry night that has been taking place the third Thursday of every month at Se7en Tea House for about five months now.
While it’s similar to other open-mics in Reno in that it has a combination of regular poets and newcomers each month, Spoken Views is unique in that it’s hosted by rappers. Cofounders Iain Watson and Walker (who rap as Emic and Locus, respectively) started the event as a way to give spoken-word poets a venue to perform that is less hostile than spoken-word’s counterpart: hip-hop.
The regular participants are all also heavily influenced by hip-hop: Kiera Sears (Audibl) performs every poem while holding her 4-month-old son (see MusicBeat, page 31); Trever Crow, standing about 6-foot-4 and heavily tattooed, looks like he could win a fistfight against the devil; and Lacy Redhead sings in a full vocal range and does traditional poetry and spoken-word. These three, plus the founders, are the official members of the Spoken Views collective.
But Spoken Views isn’t just another outlet for rappers. Ten to 15 poets perform each month. Aside from the five official members of Spoken Views and the occasional extra rapper dropping in to do a spoken-word or a capella song, none of the other poets are rappers. In fact, many participants are reading their poems for the first time to a crowd.
The idea is to bring people together.
“That’s the power of words, man,” Watson says. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Watson, a crowd favorite, has been doing poetry and hip-hop for about a decade now, he says. But there isn’t much difference between his raps and his spoken word. He talks about the same subjects, expresses the same feelings and rhymes either way.
Watson and Walker—who have been friends for years and collaborate on hip-hop projects as well—ask each participant to limit themselves to about 10 minutes each, usually two to three poems.
Topics tackled in the various poems range from humorous to melancholy to revolutionary, depending on the poet. Everything from how an ex-boyfriend wants her back, in Lacy Redhead’s case, to how MTV stands for “making teens vicious” in one of Watson’s poems.
“We gather in our coffee shops and talk to each other,” says Sears after the last Spoken Views performance on March 20. “But we already know what we’re talking about—and it’s good because it inspires us—but I hope we can get out and inspire people who don’t have inspiration, [inspire] the people who are really needing it.”
Sears worries that some people feel alienated by spoken-word and may not attend—even if they are interested in poetry. But that’s not a major concern for cofounder Walker.
“We’re poets first,” he explains. “I think that’s an automatic outlet we’ve wanted to pursue for a long time. In general, most poets are looking for anyone else who is doing something even remotely close to what they are doing … they want to band together with those people … whatever their genre might be.
“We don’t want to shun away other artists,” he says. “But we want to create a strong ground for poets to stand on.”