Weekly poetry event fosters creativity, connection

The Salem Poetry Project meets at IKE Box every Thursday night. (Courtesy/Salem Poetry Project)

Every Thursday a group of poets gather at IKE Box, listening to a featured reader followed by an open mic that Marc Janssen jokingly calls “infamous.”

Janssen started the Salem Poetry Project four years ago to give poets a place to work out new material and provide a space for people to meet up with friends each week.

He noticed that most of the featured reader events around town were scheduled after a new book was released.

“I’ve always been more egalitarian about that kind of thing,” Janssen said. “People didn’t necessarily need to have a book to have 25 to 30 minutes worth of material worth listening to.”

The meetings started at Frozation Nation, a frozen yogurt shop on Northeast Liberty Street, moved to Barrel and Keg, a bar on Northeast Broadway Street, and are now held at the coffee shop at 299 Cottage St. N.E. each week.

For Janssen, the weekly readings motivate him to write new material.

“For me it’s kind of like a deadline to have something new each week,” he said.

Lately, he said he’s been sourcing his material from ordinary, everyday events, like “What does it mean to sit at a Toyota dealership at 7:50 in the morning?”

The audience at the events skew older, but Janssen said he aims to give younger people a place that they know is available.

Featured readers start at 7 p.m. followed by the open mic, which allows readers three poems or five minutes, whichever comes first.

On Thursday, Oregon Poetry Association President Bruce Parker will read his work.

Every third Thursday is a bilingual reading, usually in Spanish and English. Next week Nitza M. Hernández López, a retired professor from the University of Puerto Rico, is the featured reader. Her poetry reflects her social concerns, Latino identity and the connection she feels with Puerto Rico.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250 or [email protected]