Under hues of purple, pink and blue lighting the Sunset Lounge, Long Beach State students nodded encouragingly and snapped supportively as poets took the mic for the last Poet’s Lounge of the semester.
Poet’s Lounge has provided students with a safe space to creatively express themselves and find inspiration at Long Beach State for 20 years, said Hannah Peedikayil, a program assistant with Beach Pride events. Open mics are hosted monthly by Beach Pride, a branch of ASI that hosts on-campus events, such as Speed Friending and Movies on the House.
Peedikayil was inspired to work for the organization after previously attending the Poet’s Lounge. She explained that though the focus is on poetry, it’s an open mic so any creative expression—music, stories, even jokes—are welcomed.
“You really see it come to life,” Peedikayil said. “People sharing really emotional stuff; people sharing really funny stuff. People supporting each other.”
The featured poet and MC was Bridgette Bianca, a poet and professor at Santa Monica College. Bianca was a featured poet at CSULB’s Black graduation and hosted an open mic during Black History Month virtually for the college, but the event on Thursday, Nov. 18 was Bianca’s first time physically on campus, which she was excited about.
In between poets, Bianca would share words of encouragements or words from her poetry book “be/trouble,” which was released in February 2020. The book was birthed out of the encouragement of others, she said.
Bianca recalls being nervous to share her poetry at first, but once she had, people began to ask if she had more. Bianca describes writing the book as a “gifted process” that came very naturally to her.
“The book is all about primarily black womanhood, black girlhood, a lot of discussion of just social justice issues, identity issues,” Bianca said. “Really just kind of breaking down, not just my life, but what I witnessed and seen and observed out there in the world.”
Bianca became serious about poetry while attending Howard University, the same place where literary legends like Toni Morrison studied.
Bianca explained that poetry offers a way to connect with people, similar to teaching. In both experiences, Bianca is given people’s attention, and in return, they hopefully learn and leave with something to think about. The power of poetry is the ability to translate emotions and experiences to one another through a brief assembly of words.
“I’ve never been much of a storyteller,” Bianca said. “I wasn’t really great at writing short stories, but I could get an idea out—just a feeling, how that felt in the moment right then. And that’s where poetry came in.”
For Jasmine Argueta, a first-year psychology major, the Poet’s Lounge offered a space to be inspired by other creatives. Though Argueta says she’s not good with words, she finds it beautiful to see others using them to express themselves.
This was Argueta’s second time in attendance, and though at the beginning of the night she hadn’t expressed interest in speaking, after a few poet’s spoke she made her way over to the signup sheet. Argueta recited a poem called “The Special One” by Clairel Estevez.
“The way people express themselves, and like different forms of art, I find very fascinating,” Argueta said.
The Poet’s Lounge will continue to provide an intimate space for student’s to share their creative expressions next semester. Whether you have poems about love, Long Beach or landscape—the mic is waiting for you next semester.