Common name: Open Mic Poet

Scientific name: Oratus pretentious

Illustration By Conrad Garcia

Identifying characteristics: Spotting the Oratus pretentious outside of the open mic setting can be difficult. As most everyone fancies him or herself a poet, mere inquiries seldom yield a positive identification.

Habitat: Oratus pretentious thrives best in coffeehouses, alternative bookstores, its own bedroom, shady bars with “character” and any place with an unattended, working microphone. During daylight hours, the species is sometimes found in office temp jobs, slinging espresso drinks or visiting the unemployment office.

Distinctive markings: The male Oratus favors a disheveled appearance including facial stubble, a haircut overdue for a trim, scuffed shoes and a collared shirt that will never meet an iron. The female of the species presents a much neater appearance, favoring black clothing and ethnic styles. Silver jewelry and long hair are common. All Oratus pretentious can be identified by the presence of one or more notebooks in their hands, bulging with scraps of scribbled-upon paper. Some also carry meaningfully underlined paperbacks. Common authors are Kerouac, Rimbaud or Plath.

Call: The vocalization of Oratus is the open mic song—also known as “spoken word poetry.” While the duration and content of the song will vary, it can be identified by telltale speech patterns. These include pregnant pauses, repetition, an increase in volume or use of profanity for emphasis and an almost total reliance on metaphor. Listen for the common themes of “my broken heart” and “what’s wrong with the world today.” The call of Oratus is almost always answered by light applause from other Oratus in the vicinity. Another, more subtle, noise emitted by Oratus is the scratching of pen on paper. When attempting to identify the subspecies silenta pretentious (who writes compulsively, but never utters the open mic song) this sound is the only means of detection.

Approach: Should you encounter this verbose creature, remember that nothing attracts Oratus like a willing audience and courtesy applause. If it seems startled, produce your decoy journal and pen. Begin writing, pausing every so often to stare off into space with a look of feigned concentration. This will put the Oratus at ease. If all else fails, express interest in purchasing one of its recent chapbooks.

Leftis rambleon