N.C. Poet Impressed with Bards & Brews after March Visit to BPL

Anna Weaver

Are you unfamiliar with Bards & Brews and wonder what to expect when the Birmingham Public Library's spoken word poetry/craft beer event visits the Birmingham Museum of Art on Friday, April 5?

Anna Weaver, a Raleigh, N.C., poet who drove 10 hours to participate in the March 1 Bards &  Brews, shared her experience in a blog article written last month documenting her trek to visit open mic poetry events in all 50 states. Alabama was the 30th state in her journey that began in 2012.

Click here to read her thoughts about Bards & Brews.

In a Q & A interview, Weaver talked about Bards & Brews, which she says is the only open mic poetry event she knows of in the United States held in a public library.

BPL: Sounds like you were impressed with Bards & Brews during your visit in March. 
Weaver: Definitely impressed. What I loved the most was SOAP (Support Our Artists Please). Artists need support—emotional, creative, and financial. At Bards & Brews, your mantra is a reminder that local arts can only flourish if people and institutions come together to make it happen. As Emerson said, every artist was first an amateur.

How would you compare Bards & Brews to other open mic poetry events you have visited?
Open mics are hard to compare. No two are alike, and yet they share a common purpose. Yours is the first nomadic open mic I’ve found, and I love how that improves access for people around the city (because let’s face it, weeknights are busy for many of us). Yours is also the only one sponsored by the municipal library—and given how successful it clearly is at bringing people to your facilities, I bet other cities and counties would love to know your secret sauce.

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that the library connection is a key—if not the key—to the tremendous age diversity I saw the night I came. Most slams and spoken word nights are held at bars or coffee shops, and they skew young. Something about Bards & Brews brings out a broader range of poets and performers.

What do you think of the Bards & Brews concept combining poetry with craft beer?
Combining local beer with local talent is a brilliant idea! Brewers are artists too...they just work in a different medium. Bards & Brews brings together both the voices and the flavors of Birmingham, and the sum total is a fun and rich community touchstone.

How long have you been sharing your talent as a spoken word artist at open mic poetry events?
I started going to open mics in 2010 and quickly became a regular at a place called Amplified Art in downtown Raleigh. The owners, host and house band, and all the other regulars built this amazing creative community and I was hooked.

When did you start this journey to visit open mics in all 50 states?
That started in 2012. A string of work trips sent me to Chicago, Atlanta, and Nashville, and I’d found open mics in each place. And they were so different from the ones I’d done to date in Raleigh. Not better necessarily, not worse. Just different and always inspiring. It hasn’t occurred to me that there could be a ton of variety in how things are structured or how the host’s personality or the venue might affect the spirit of the event.

A year or so later, in one of those idle what-would-you-do-if-you-had-enough-time-and-money conversations, I had the idea to make it a national quest (although the original scope was just the lower 48). So I started with the short, easy drives from North Carolina and took advantage of other work trips, vacations, and family visits. And I’ve done a couple long treks that we’re all about checking off a few states at once.

Monuments and museums are great. But for me, it’s more interesting to get to know a city by listening to the voices of her poets and musicians and experiencing a little slice of the arts scene.

What is next in your open mic journey across the U.S. this year?
Since Alabama, I’ve made it to Colorado, where I did 2 open mics in one night. I’ll get those written up soon. And by summer I aim to make it to Pennsylvania and Delaware for sure, maybe Oregon, and if I get lucky, a few more. I’m also beginning to plan a trip to Alaska for the fall, because I don’t want that to be my last one.

How can people follow your Open Mic Tourist blog?
I welcome avid and aspiring artists to follow along at openmictourist.com  and to reach out if they have any questions or know a poet-friendly open mic I haven’t been to yet.