By Danielle Cosner
By Danielle Cosner
Where can you hear about the urge to bite off someone’s nose, talking statues, environmental awareness, vampires, and ether all in an hour and a half?
Every Monday night from 9-10:30 p.m. Riverside Underground Poetry Organization’s poetry night is held in the basement of local coffee shop Back to the Grind. During this time local poets from teens to the elderly share their work with an audience of fellow poets and poetry lovers.
The setting is more than appropriate for the event. Black and red booths mixed with small tables covered in modern art run along a wall that resembles the inside of a cave.
The basement is dimly lit in red lights with clean, eroded concrete floors, red bricks, and stone walls with occasional art or a mirror and a female mannequin in one corner make up the rest of the basement.
The place has an artsy, eclectic, and rustic atmosphere. Under a dim spotlight sits a green stuffed reading chair, to the left of it a table and amplifier, to the right a lone microphone, electric keyboard, and a five and a half foot stone statue.
The evening began with a man doing mad lib poetry with the help of the audience. He would give the word that needed to be in the middle or end of the next line then the audience or other poets would supply a phrase containing the given word as the next line in the poem.
At the end he read the completed work aloud. Following the newly constructed poem, which turned out quite comical, a string of poets took their turns sitting in the green chairs and reciting usually three or four of their own works and occasionally including a work done by a parent or relative.
The poem topics varied greatly to include: racism, political issues, memories, ether, hate, oppression, drugs, commercialism, biting women’s noses, rock lyrics, ancient Greece, environmental awareness, and vampires.
By the end of the night the poetry group was made up of about twenty-five to thirty people in the basement.
One participant in poetry night, a man named Don Cruze did a monologue that told a story about being a part time security guard at a museum and hearing the statue talk to him. He was dressed in black jeans, black boots, a black western shirt, and a black cowboy hat.
Similar to how radio dramas were, Cruze used props, singing, a cymbal, and sound effects from the keyboard as well as some other personalized tools for sounds.
Cruze explained that he began doing this sort of thing in high school and just always had a passion for it. He had performed at the Grind several times before the poetry night was established but has been attending the Monday night gathering for the past two years.
When asked what his favorite aspects of Back to the Grind were, Cruze said “the artistic feeling in the air and support of the local art community.”
Support for the local art community is exactly what Darren Conkerite, owner, had in mind for his coffee house. Conkerite acknowledges of the artists “they support me; I’ll support them.”
He offers his encouragement as well as a place for upcoming artists to display their work and perform.
“It gives some a first time opportunity to shine and their careers take off after that. They just need a chance,” he said.
Events or meetings are held almost daily at Back to the Grind and are open to the public.
The calendar with upcoming events can be viewed online at