When the mic opens and the poetry flows

‘My Shadow Self.’ | Ann Arbor, Michigan | april2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography

By Douglas John Imbrogno | TheStoryIsTheThing.com | april11.2023

That’s me in the shadow(s), losing my religion, in the photograph above. But gaining a new poetry-friendly safe zone in my life at Third Mind Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was walking past the fine, chock-a-block shops and through the lively streets of the college-town city, after dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant and stopping by a full-on French pâtisserie. (Living the good life, yes.) That’s when I noticed a flyer on a shop door:

‘Poetry Open Mic, 8 p.m., Saturday April 8.’

Wait. (Checks phone …). ‘Hey! That’s today! ‘

So, I signed up. This being a sign-up supervised by a young human being named Joe—a Third Mind Books staffer and the open-mic host—he texted to my phone a link to a Google form and that’s where I had to sign up, providing a short poetic bio. (When The Great Sunspot Storms of 2024 burp-destroy the Internet and all electrical communication some us are going to be so screwed in how we get anything done …)

‘Words to the Wise.’ | A portrait of the audience at Third Mind Books’ poetry open mic in Ann Arbor, Michigan | april2023 | TheStoryIsTheThing.substack.com photography

Speak It Forward

I had a fine time reading some of my short poetry and epigrams, along with a potpourri of other poets and acts. And there was a pretty decent audience for an open mic poetry reading on a Saturday eve. Then again, this was a bookshop—and partial shrine to the legacy of BEAT poetry—in downtown Ann Arbor, a multi-culti hot spot of welcome diversity, ethnicity, and things happening. (The website for Third Mind Books describes the place as “specializing in first editions and rare books of the Beat Generation and other notable movements.”)

Third Mind owner and founder, Arthur S. Nusbaum, seen below on stage introducing the evening, is something of a William Burroughs scholar, plus a rounder-upper of an impressive collection of BEAT-inalia on the shelves, walls and in display cases. He launched the place online and then it opened in this Ann Arbor storefront in 2022. (I think I have these details right from quickie conversations). The open mic was one in a series which the establishment has offered up, passing forward the BEAT movement’s versifying mojo.

That is William B. himself on the wall to stage-left of the shop owner in the photo above. Nusbaum once met the BEAT luminary and they had a fine discussion, spurred by his knowledge of the writer’s life and work. A monograph about their meet-up is available in the shop for sale. Above is a 2000 issue of the publication ‘Free Thought,’ which published his piece about their encounter, promoting it on the cover as part of a Burroughs retrospective.

Write On

As someone who now and then casts his little origami cranes of poems upon the tumultuous winds of the world—only to see them too often come crash-landing back in my lap from the submissions desks of poetry enclaves—I must concede it was daunting to see the bookstore’s shelves jammed with so many legendary and lesser-known poetry journals.

‘Write This Way.’ | How many poems on this shelf alone at Third Mind Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan? |

The journals—one after another after another—gather up poems from past years, decades, and centuries. So many past poets, folding their own origami poems in hope someone will see and appreciate them! I am a little daunted, seeing them all. It is a heavy lift finding even a handful of readers for one’s poems. And, here are thousands of other poems, vying to be seen.

Yet, still we weekend poets poetify. Sometimes, poetry is the only thing that makes sense.

Also, each issue of every one of these publications was an occasion and, in their own way, an investment in a finer world. Or, maybe a downpayment on a clearer understanding of the confounding one we find ourselves incarnated into—whichever the year, the decade or century.

And, thus, my encouragement to self and to others who fold their own origami poems: write on. While also being savvy to the coming and going, the ebb and flow, of all our minor glories and small fames. Or to quote one of the epigrams I read at Third Mind Books that night:


Fame comes,
fame goes.
Still you sit
and pick your nose.

And also:


You know, I am your friend.
I wasn’t always. But it is good
to have a friend, or the

possibility of one. The sun
shines, the moon evolves
through its stages,

the Earth pivots as
the galaxy swirls. And the next
universe won’t destroy us

with its birth for several
billion years. So, in the
meantime, it is good to

have a friend. It is good
to have the possibility
of having one.

It is good another universe
is coming, too. Since we all
need time to get it right.

So, I am here when
you need me. Now, that
we are together,

in this,
our universe. I await
your call.

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