Every Tuesday at Donkey Coffee and Espresso, writers gather to perform their poetry or spoken word at the coffee shop’s Designated Space event.
As the emcee, Emily McDermott stepped up to the microphone to kick off Donkey Coffee and Espresso’s weekly Tuesday “open mic,” though the latter half was left to be desired.
The microphone’s malfunction, however, did not discourage the nearly dozen performers who came out to the coffee shop at 17 W. Washington St. for Designated Space.
For roughly one hour every week, writers from Hocking Hills to Mill Street and everywhere in between flock to the cave of creativity in the back room of Donkey for their time on the mic.
“Designated Space has never been one person’s ‘thing,’ ” McDermott, an Athens resident, said. “It has always belonged to the community.”
At its second installment, Designated Space is still drawing impressive crowds. By the time performers began taking the stage, attendees were left with no choice but to sit on the floor.
Designated Space began 18 years ago by the mythical Lou — known more so now as a figure than as a person — and has continued to snowball throughout the years.
The emcees and attendees may have changed, but the purpose to showcase poetry and spoken word has remained a permanent fixture. Even after McDermott’s seven years of attendance and her two most recent years of hosting the event, one element has remained her favorite.
“Seeing a crop of regulars build up throughout the year, and then seeing it change next year is the most entertaining part of this job,” she said. “After the poetry, of course.”
Sometimes the pieces get personal and deep, fast. Epics of lost loves, broken hearts and failed dreams occasionally pour out on the stage.
Noah Rudman spoke about the trials of navigating adolescence and experiencing alienation, but ultimately finding comfort in creativity.
“I try to take apart struggles from my own life and turn it into something beautiful while also trying not to make it sound depressing,” Rudman, a freshman studying screenwriting and producing, said. “Lately, I have been trying to find more natural inspiration. Using life … rather than the typical teenage angst.”
Meanwhile, sophomore Olivia Cobb chose a more light-hearted path with her piece asking “why there are one million songs about the smell of her hair on his pillow, but none about the stench of his pillow in my hair.”
Almost perfectly summing up the night, one artist chose to quote British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott:
“Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.”