Portland may be the land of books, but books always begin with a writer. The Portland Lit Mic is a student-run open mic that celebrates Portland writers with enthusiasm, unconditional support, and community.
Back in February of 2023, I was able to attend one of their open mic nights. It had been almost a year since I had read my poetry in front of anyone and when I did, it was at my tiny liberal arts college in rural Georgia. This was Portland, the “city of books.” The city of authenticity and eccentricity. I thought, would my poems even be cool or weird enough to engage an audience?
My worries were put to rest after sitting in the cozy Rose City Book pub. The ambiance was something close to what I would think the inside of Molly Weasley’s mind would look like. Year-round Christmas lights adorned the walls and books were stacked in every corner. Hot chocolate spiked with peanut butter whiskey, and vintage couches with cushions that swallowed you whole.
Besides the ambience, once the two hosts, Jordan and Grace, got up to introduce themselves and the readers, my mind was soothed. At each passing reader, the audience grew louder with claps and cheers. There were “oohs” and “ahhs” and smiles as each reader took their turn. Jordan and Grace made sure each reader knew just how much guts it took to come up and share your writing. It was an experience that I never had before when reading my work. And before the event was over, I was already searching when their next open mic was.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the two hosts who happen to be students here at Portland State University!
Q & A with hosts, Jordan and Grace
What is Portland Lit Mic?
Portland Lit Mic is Portland’s first open mic to not only celebrate the literary arts, but to have no requirements for genre. We let people sign up to read for about an hour and a half and then spend the rest of the evening socializing and building connections between writers.
What made you two want to start an open mic? What makes it different from other open mics?
After visiting a few open mics here in Portland, we were a little frustrated by the lack of spaces to read the stuff we were writing. Most open mics either have a ton of live music and stand up (which is cool, but just not our thing) or it’s focused around one genre (like poetry). So, we decided to create our own open mic where people could read anything they’d written, regardless of its genre, but was still aimed at the literary arts community of Portland. We’d say this is what sets us apart from other open mics. In one night you might hear some rapping, a few poems, an autobiographical essay, an excerpt from a horror novel, and a piece of autofiction. We also put a huge emphasis on building community, so you’re likely to walk away having met a few cool writers, and hopefully new friends.
What’s been your favorite experience while hosting the mic?
There’s so many fun stories to pull from, but we once had someone’s kid come up and tell us a story-song about wishing that the world was a happier place. We’ve never seen a more entranced audience. A close second would be any time we have someone get up who has never read at an open mic before. There’s so much support in those moments for these new readers, and it makes us proud to be part of this community.
Any upcoming events? Where can people find you if they would like to attend or read?
Our one year anniversary party is happening at Rose City Book Pub on Friday, April 14th. In addition to having a reading, we’ll be providing some food and games to thank the literary arts community of Portland for a year of support. It’s a free event and all are encouraged to come, even those that have never visited a past show. The best way to get more information about future events is through our Instagram page @portlandlitmic.
Even if you’re not a writer and just enjoy listening to stories or literature, The Portland Lit Mic is a great place to find others that share the same passions. So, sit back, eat, drink, and enjoy some local Portland writing.