….is what someone essentially asked me, in regards to Midtown closing. As usual, it takes me a minute to realize the impact of people’s statements sometimes…..so allow me to take a delayed reactive moment to explain, for those who may not fully understand, what all the fuss is about….
Gonna attempt a short story.
unlike today, where on a good week, you might find poetry every other day, years ago some of us were trekking across Indpls in search of somewhere to spit poetry. The closing of downtown open mic staple, The Cozy, wasn’t just abrupt and heartbreaking, it left us with a gaping hole. There was no where to do poetry. For a newcomer like myself, who was still in the spring fever beginning stages of my relationship with the mic, I was at a loss. The place that was giving me my newfound freedom was gone and there was no where to take its place. Over the next couple of years, countless places and people tried their hands at it, but it hardly ever lasted longer than six months before we were back without a venue and no where to go. Writeon opened and gave us new hope. A new family was built on the back of fear of letting our poetic guards down. But still, for quite sometime, there was no where else to go. And then Midtown came along. Centered right in the heart of Indy, classic weekend, 2007; it was one of the hottest days of the year and there was no air. But the place was packed out. We vibed and rocked out to a set featuring some of the upcoming bests, myself included, and had a great time, unaware of what was to come. ….
for weeks, maybe a few months, it was just us. Some of the regular poets, a new chick from Brooklyn and a few audience members. We would rotate the mic, going up 3, maybe 4 times because no one else was on the list. We would sit there and laugh about the low audience and act silly on the stage, unknowingly building foundations of friendship that resembled that of family. And in a flash, we went from strolling in at 930 to needing to be there at 8 to get a seat. New regulars became old friends, the open mic list got long and the poems got better!! Sayings were crafted such as “stack that cheese” ….we became more than just an open mic full of poets and spectators. We became a family. We traveled together; people who were once strangers were now rolling highways packed in vans. We grew to lean on each other. We lost people and then came together to celebrate their lives. It wasn’t about knowing someone’s business, it was about being there for our family. From bucket collections to Violet Projects to the birth of Fighting Words and the development of nSAYchable, you didn’t just get entertained at midtown; you watched life in action. Raw emotions. Tears were dropped during countless unexpected stage moments from various people. Love was shared in front of audiences. Newbies got cherries popped as we watched the live action poetry porn.
Who remembers when there was wine and beer at midtown? And the Death By Chocolate??? Who remember’s my mom coming to midtown, or my boyfriend sitting in the audience while I did a love poem directed to him? WHo remembers hearing allen cussing for the first time, or the surprise birthday parties for everybody from me to stacy, matter a fact, what about the Upper Deck?? THe VIP? Remember when there was no VIP? Remember when Taalam Acey came back to Indy for the FIRST time in years!!!!?? How about the first time you saw Naz & Shaunette? Or heard “I’m Coo” ??!! Or when Tony passed out Chocolate Covered Strawberries to the ladies ? Remember “This Poem” ? How about all the collabs on stage from FWP featuring Greg, how about greg!!?? And Styxx & Victoria….Or watching Steff grow from a shy poet to a NY Beast!!!
I grew at midtown from a small shy girl to a confident and ready to fight with words woman. I had a 14 year old come up to me in tears, glad to meet me, at midtown. Gabrielle released her first cd at Midtown. I could go on forever with the memories, but the point is not the memories, the point is the bond. THe family. When our audience was hurt, we were hurt and vice versa. There was a point when no one apologized for reading from paper at midtown. You weren’t expected to be the best or have the greatest, you were accepted as honest. People weren’t texting or facebooking while someone was on stage. Folks didn’t walk in front of the stage while a poet was spitting. It was a house of respect that some of us may subconsciously fear is so far gone, that we will never see again.
Midtown closing isn’t about “old” poets stepping aside for new ones. Its not about egos or arguments. Its not about who’s down for who and who doesn’t support who. Midtown is about the end of an era. An era where audiences and poets collided and became one collective; we were every bit the community we claim to be. We were there for each other, loved each other and cared about each other. It was more than entertainment. It was life. Shared. Collectively. Lovingly. Honestly unconditionally. New beginnings will definitely arise from this. And I think we all embrace them.
But for some of us, those of us who have been there for the beginning….those of us who you may not see often or at every special feature, but still spent a lot of time there…..we remember something that is hard to put in words. And no matter where our paths may take us in life, we will each hold something dear to our hearts that is hard to imagine ever happening again. That’s beautifully hurtful in a way.
So what is all the fuss about?
I guess you just would’ve had to be there to know.
***Note: Let me correct myself in saying during this time of “no where to go”, Kafe Kuumba was still open and going on. And since this is MY blog, I can say that the connection between the “elder” poets and the “my generation of poets and beyond” was, in my opinion, at that time (and possibly still) broken and for some of us, didn’t translate to “welcoming”. …leaving us back at square one….no where to go.