For more than a decade, Auntie's 3 Minute Mic has welcomed writers from all walks of life

click to enlarge For more than a decade, Auntie's 3 Minute Mic
has welcomed writers from all walks of life
Young Kwak photo
Twahan Simultaneous reads at July's 3 Minute Mic while host Chris Cook watches.

Think of all of the things you can do in three minutes.

Microwave popcorn. Make your bed. Take a phone call. Listen to your favorite song.

It isn't a lot of time, but it can feel like a lifetime when you're baring your soul to a room full of people.

For 11 years now on the first Friday of each month, Auntie's Bookstore in downtown Spokane has been hosting 3 Minute Mic, giving poets and other wordsmiths three minutes in front of a microphone to share their work.

Former Spokane Poet Laureate (2019-2021) Chris Cook has been hosting 3 Minute Mic along with his co-host Chris Coppen since the beginning.

Cook has seen faces come and go, some readers who return every month, and plenty of newcomers trying out the open mic format over the past decade-plus.

"Poetry can be a solo game," Cook says. "It can be an introverted pursuit. But, if you're brave enough to step up to a mic, you're going to get support."

And it's true. On the first Friday of June, the seats in Auntie's Bookstore are nearly full. Some attendees are established poets, some are first-timers, some have come as moral support, and some are just there to listen. As they settle into their chairs, the microphone stares down the crowd perched atop a stand at the front of the store.

Something akin to excitement is palpable in the air as regular 3 Minute Mic readers walk around talking with other regulars, while others sit quietly, scanning their poems and practicing in their heads before go-time.

The clock strikes 7 pm and Cook walks to the front of the room to go over the rules: You may read up to three minutes worth of poetry. This is a free-speech event. (Be mindful of young ears!) Have fun.

First Fridays at 7 pm, free, all ages
Auntie’s Bookstore, 402 W. Main Ave., 509-838-0206

This time around, there are a few fresh faces in the crowd, so Cook brings up regular and former attorney for the city of Spokane, Michael Connelly, to start things off. He's retiring and reads a few poems that reflect his feelings toward the new chapter of life he's entering.

He receives snaps, claps and a pat on the back as he returns to his spot in the crowd.

Next, Cook calls up a tourist visiting from California. She explains that she heard talk about an open mic and figured she'd try it out while she's in town.

"We almost always have new readers," Cook says. "We make a really big deal of it. We announce that from the beginning, and we space them out. There's roaring applause, it's over the top."

After the Californian finishes, the audience of about 15 bursts into applause, snaps and cheers of affirmation.

"We always invite people back," Cook says. "Quite loudly and in unison. And more often than not, they do come back."

Brandon T. Sullivan, a local poet, found his place and renewed meaning at 3 Minute Mic.

"I wrote poetry for the first time in 2012," Sullivan says. "Consequently, I started my recovery process at the same time. Poetry and God got me through that time in my life."

Sullivan found himself driving to Spokane in the years after the COVID pandemic from his then-home in the Tri-Cities repeatedly each week to attend open mics. Attending 3 Minute Mic, along with other local events, helped Sullivan find his footing as a poet and inspired him to pursue writing as a career.

"In Spokane, you can stumble upon poetry in so many places," he says. "We have such talented and varied poets here. They make it so exciting to be a part of this scene because no matter what open mic I go to, there will be a performer there that will make my work, and my life, better in some way."

Sullivan reads from his independently published poetry collection, Love and Toxic Waste, at the June event. His poem "Growths" discusses tree burls, which he describes as "pockets of mystery that trees sometimes grow."

"There was more going on in that small block of forest than in most cities on Earth," Sullivan reads. "Life microscopic, insectoid to rodent and beyond, but human ears just weren't made to notice that kind of traffic, or maybe it's because we're not listening."

He gets to a beautifully alliterative line, "weirdly wavy whirl whorls of wonder," and the room fills with audible "oohs" and faint snaps.

Anyone can share. All it takes is three minutes, a microphone and eager, listening ears.

"It's religion in the best possible sense," Cook says. "I feel like, in many ways, we have seriously saved lives." ♦

Woman, Artist, Catalyst: Art from the Permanent Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through March 9
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Madison Pearson

Madison Pearson is the Inlander's Listings Editor, managing the calendar of events and covering everything from local mascots to mid-century modern home preservation for the Arts & Culture section of the paper. She joined the staff in 2022 after completing a bachelor's degree in journalism from Eastern Washington...