An Evening of Poetry and Prose

Ant Phan/HIGHLANDER
Ant Phan/HIGHLANDER

If you’ve never stumbled into Back to the Grind, you’re certainly missing out. A charming, cozy coffee shop located in downtown Riverside, Back to the Grind is the perfect place to relax and study. It is also regularly home to many art shows, concerts and open mic nights, making it the ideal location for Mosaic Art and Literary Journal along with Audeamus Honors Journal, to host a joint open mic night. Mosaic is undergraduate-run and publishes an edition every year that includes poetry, prose, 10 minute plays and visual art. Audeamus is an annual journal that contains everything from research papers to musical scores and is only open to honors students within the UC system. The event was also supported by The Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts at UCR.

Located in the basement of the shop, the open mic night put on by the two UCR undergraduate journals was open to the public and allowed everyone the opportunity to read poetry or prose. Upon arrival, guests were encouraged to sign up in order to participate and take a look through previous editions of Mosaic that were placed on several tables around the room. Attendees continued to arrive as editor of Mosaic and host of the evening, Katherine Miller, walked onto the small stage in the center of the room. She welcomed the small crowd before the editor-in-chief of Mosaic, Alexandra Villamor, said a few words about the literary journal that allows students and more to get their work published. Villamor then turned things over to Megan Krum, the editor-in-chief of Audeamus who shared that they were in their 10th year and now accepting submissions.

Soon after, we were ready to get on with the poetry of the night.

“Maybe I should just call on everyone who hasn’t signed up,” Miller joked, before proceeding to allow the editors of Mosaic to start the evening off with their poetry. Ben Smith garnered a few chuckles from the crowd with his two pieces, which included one about an “unobvious mustache,” while Princess Fernandez kept things interesting with a poem entitled “Then the Concrete Grew All Around,” a play off of the childhood song “And the Green Grass Grew All Around.” Mosaic’s own continued to read their poetry and undeniably got the night off to a good start.

With the first round of poetry readings down, a short break ensued and visitors were encouraged to purchase items from upstairs. The aroma of various beverages filled the air as attendees made their way back and forth, purchasing everything from hot coffee to pizza. As the minutes passed, more and more people made their way into Back to the Grind’s basement. All of the tables and couches were soon full with poetry fans eager to hear more of what the night had to offer.

Miller made her way back to the stage and spoke a few words about Mosaic and the individuals who make the magic happen. “This is Mosaic’s 55th year as a literary journal,” she stated, inducing a cheer from the crowd. People continued to settle in as Miller began calling individuals to the stage. A participant named Michael shared his inspiring poem, “Cloud Dwellers” which garnered several claps and snaps from onlookers, while another poet named Jason relayed to the audience how much the Back to the Grind open mic nights meant to him. “After I got out of prison, I started performing on this stage. I even won a free pizza once!” he exclaimed. He proceeded to perform spoken word on civil rights and the ongoing police brutality geared toward minorities, ending the second half of the program.

After a short break, the poetry continued with Mosaic editor Janeane Calderon reading a poem by the Pulitzer prize-winning poet Anne Sexton. Audience members enjoyed their food and drinks as one by one individuals picked up the mic to share their work. Closing out the night was Villamor, who decided to read a piece from the 1993 edition of Mosaic. “Who is here at an open mic night for the very first time?” she inquired of the crowd. Several people raised their hands, to which she then instructed everyone in the room to snap in sync. Villamor assured everyone that from that moment on, they’d be able to attend an abundance of open mic nights and subsequently ended the night on a warm and friendly note.

With good food, great poetry and even better people, Mosaic and Audeamus’ joint open mic night at Back to the Grind was an overwhelming success and one can only hope that there’ll be more in the future.

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