Break out the Moleskines: literary journal holds open mic

Mechelle Hankerson
Assistant Spectrum Editor

VCU sophomore English major Andy Tran read his poem, “Opaque Shades of Richmond,” crafted for his contemporary poetry class, to a room of about 20 writers Tuesday night for Poictesme’s annual open-mic night. The night featured readings of writers’ favorite works as well as their original short stories, poems and even sentence-long thoughts.

“Are abstract paintings/and basketball supposed to nurture a city/not only Richmond, but also other lonely cities/of misunderstood brunettes, dank weed and dubstep …” Tran stated in his poem.

According to current assistant editor Amy Sailer (who will be filling the shoes of editor-in-chief next year), VCU’s literary journal, Poictesme, has been hosting an open-mic night for the past three years that she has been part of the editorial staff.

Sailer said that typically, the event is held more toward the middle of the spring semester and takes place in the Student Commons. This year, the event was held at the Student Media Center.

“I’m always surprised at how many people are writing poetry, like in their Moleskines,” Sailer said. “I think its nice for people to have a chance to share it and see what other people are writing.”

Sailer opened the night with Kevin Young’s “Slow Drag Blues.”

Tran followed Sailer, setting the casual mood of the event by warning the audience he has “really bad eyesight and really okay handwriting.”

Tran started with his original poem, “No. 6: How to be a Poet,” which was written from a prompt given to him by a VCU Writing Center employee. The poem was a list of things one should do to be a successful poet, including “(refusing) to speak during poetry workshops so your crush thinks you’re mysterious, (engaging) in a same-sex experience,” and “(dropping) acid with a pseudo-hipster.”

VCU student and published author Jake Ziemba shared a short story he titled “Sarah’s Potatoes” about a young girl who was deemed to be evil because of her constant digging for food. When the town was digging her grave, they found patches of potatoes that they named after her.

Ziemba said he wrote the story on two envelopes one night when he couldn’t sleep while staying with a friend.

While Ziemba’s story was limited because of his resources, freshman journalism major Alex Carrigan read a longer form short story that he tentatively titled “The Closed Room Killings.”

Carrigan, who is also part of Poictesme’s editorial staff, explained that closed room killings are murders that seem humanely impossible, a theme that he continued in his short story as he followed a police officer trying to solve the murder of two people.

“I kind of just thought of examples of (closed room killings) … and then I just kind of built a story around it,” he said.

Participants also shared works that they enjoy, like Sarah Bruce who chose to read two poems (“Wet Snow” and “Crofter’s Kitchen, Evening”) by Norman MacCaig.

“I have to admit, I’m kind of in love,” she told the audience. “Don’t tell my fiancé.”

Sailer assured the small crowd that next year’s event would be held in the Student Commons and announced that the new issue of Poictesme should be available within the next month.

Poictesme is currently accepting submissions for next year’s journal. Submissions can be sent to More information about release dates and upcoming events can be found at

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