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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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3-Minute Mic brings lively literary energy

Monthly event turns Auntie’s into local poetry showcase

You’re encouraged to be relatively quiet in a bookstore, to browse and read silently without disturbing anybody. That’s not the case with 3-Minute Mic. On the first Friday of every month, the main floor of Auntie’s Bookstore is overrun by poets, and they aren’t shy about being heard.

“We’re pretty loud, we clap,” said local poet and 3-Minute Mic host Chris Cook. “It’s not a typical book reading at a bookstore. We don’t do the library thing.”

Cook, also a trumpet player in the Spokane Symphony, started 3-Minute Mic in collaboration with Auntie’s in April 2013, and he recalls the first event drawing an audience of 85. The concept is simple: Readers have 180 seconds to perform something they’ve written, be it poetry, lyrics or prose.

“We have a healthy number of readers every time,” Cook said. “We’ve had at least six new readers each time, and it spans generations. … Sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes it’s really full. If it fills up the back steps, that’s a good sign. I’m always very heartened by the overflow.”

The two halves of the 3-Minute Mic events are broken up by a recurring feature called “Remember the Word,” which has local personalities presenting work by late authors they admire. Cook says he likes to book people who aren’t necessarily associated with the poetry community, which imbues the feature with a sense of variety and unpredictability.

Recent “Remember the Word” highlights have included local jazz singer Abbey Crawford performing the Irish standard “Danny Boy,” Spokane Public Radio personality Verne Windham playing Benjamin Britten horn calls and U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt reading morbid morality tales from Old World Germany.

This week’s “Remember” features local poet Mark Anderson, best known around town as the host of Neato Burrito’s weekly Broken Mic. Anderson has read his own work at 3-Minute Mic before, but this will be the first time he’s performed someone else’s.

“Since there haven’t been many poets featured in the last few years, I have to do something special,” Anderson said. “So I want to perform a whole set by memory of some poets that have inspired me. I want to do it in part because it’s a challenge, and party because memorization is really important in poetry.”

But it’s the venue that really makes 3-Minute Mic different than your typical open mic poetry reading: Auntie’s is a comfortable middle ground between the intimacy of a coffee shop and the rambunctious atmosphere of a bar.

“There are a lot of people who are comfortable coming into a bookstore and reading,” Anderson said, “but they might not be comfortable going into the loud, raucous nights at Neato Burrito and don’t see themselves at a poetry slam.”

And Cook, who has been an integral part of Spokane’s art and poetry scene since the late ’90s, believes that the continued success of events in the same vein as 3-Minute Mic prove that Spokane has an insatiable desire for art and culture.

“It’s an entire night of individual artists performing for you, and it’s free,” he said. “There’s a reason that this tradition is still here. … I’m happy to have it be a part of an outstandingly flourishing arts scene. I’m so proud of this town and happy to be from this town, and I’m glad there’s a hunger for it.”

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