Open Mic Night event inspired by Common Book program

Open+Mic+Night+was+inspired+by+the+Common+Book+of+the+year%2C+%E2%80%9CA+War+for+Kindness%E2%80%9D+by+Jumil+Zaki.+Zaki+touches+on+the+importance+of+sharing+writing+and+prose+as+a+way+to+build+empathy+and+see+various+perspectives.

Heidi Hanson

Open Mic Night was inspired by the Common Book of the year, “A War for Kindness” by Jumil Zaki. Zaki touches on the importance of sharing writing and prose as a way to build empathy and see various perspectives.

Heidi Hanson, features reporter

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, Winona State University’s English Department held an Open Mic Night event in the Student Activities Center in Kryzsko Commons. Students from an advanced writing course on campus shared some of their original work from 5 to 6 p.m.

Part of the inspiration for Open Mic Night came from this year’s Common Book, “A War for Kindness” by Jamil Zaki. April Herndon, a professor in the English department, is in her third year of directing the Common Book program.

“But [Zaki] talks about literature as a kind of contact light where we still get a sort of listen to someone’s story: someone who’s very different from us,” Herndon said. Herndon also placed importance on the fact that literature is a great way to build empathy, as stated in Zaki’s book.

About fifteen students went on stage and shared some of their original poems, short stories and excerpts from longer works. The works ranged in length, emotion and tone, eliciting laughter and even some tears in the audience. Anyone who considers themselves a lover of writing or creating would benefit from the wide range of perspectives and ideas that come out of an open mic night like this one.

James (Jim) Armstrong, an English professor at the university, ran the Open Mic Night event with fellow English professor Debra Cumberland. Both professors shared their own work to start off the event, performing poetry with personality and warmth. Armstrong demonstrated the importance of sharing personal writing.

“Creating connections is really important; when you’re writing, you’re often very solitary,” Armstrong said. “So it’s really good for you to get out and perform your stuff.”

Another Open Mic Night event will be held in the Student Activ- ities Center on Feb. 22, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. Any and every writer is encouraged to come and share their original work.
Another Open Mic Night event will be held in the Student Activities Center on Feb. 22, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. Any and every writer is encouraged to come and share their original work. (Heidi Hanson)

After nearly two years of COVID-19 conditions, many writers lost motivation, drive and creativity; others, however, gained inspiration in the solitude of quarantine. Sharing the work created during those times is not only interesting, but also important to gain back that connection.

“I think, particularly due to the pandemic, I think people are hungry to get together,” Cumberland stated. “And also, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the creative talents of students and also maybe to inspire others to get involved in and share their work who may not be in the English department, but would like to come and participate.”

Seeing a variety of students share their creative writing is not only inspiring but also eye-opening to other experiences. Each student brought a different tone and feel to their writing, creating an immersive and raw experience for the audience.

Winona State University’s literary and art magazine, “Satori”, was also spoken of at the event. “Satori” is a collection of student’s individual works including art, poetry, short stories, photography and more, and it will be published in April.

Sharing personal artistic work in Satori and open mic nights is a great way to see inside the mind of writers, not only in terms of their writing process but specific perspectives on life in general.

“And I really hope when we get people together in that room and they share their creative work, they will almost always adopt some kind of human experience – love, sadness, grief, loss,” Herndon said.

The Common Book series has a variety of writers and poets coming to Winona State’s main campus. To see the series schedule, visit the Winona State website.

Another Open Mic Night event will be held in the Student Activities Center on Feb. 22, 2022, at 12:30 p.m. Any and every writer is encouraged to come and share their original work.

“Everybody’s welcome,” Armstrong said. “And wherever, whatever style you have or whatever kind of creative effort you’re making, we all want to hear about it.”