Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Crisp Museum celebrates national poetry month with coffee, poems and mystery hats

Sunday, April 18, 2021
Junior Atum Miles reads “Am I a Monster?” a piece of poetry he wrote about his own life. Miles read this poem for students and community members at the annual Open Mic Poetry Night in the lobby next to the Crisp Museum at River campus.
Photo by Olivia Tock

The smell of fresh coffee drifted through the air as poetry fans strolled into the lobby next to the Crisp Museum for the Annual Open Mic Poetry Night April 14. Two black top hats, resting upside down on a podium in front of the tables of guests, were filled to the brim with poems.

According to outreach specialist Gary Tyler, this year was the third-annual Poetry Night. The event was cancelled last year after students were sent home due to COVID-19. Tyler had such a passion for poetry, he worked to bring back the event this year.

Tyler said Poetry Night is a time for individuals of all ages to gather together to safely express their innermost thoughts, showcase their talents and support others in the literary process.

Some members of the audience were hesitant to read their own works at first, so Tyler used the mystery hats to help the audience overcome their nerves. A guest could step up to the podium and pull a poem from one of the mystery hats to read. Some were famous and serious works, while others were funny poems about the novel coronavirus and the pains of wearing masks. There was even a poem about a boy getting embarrassed because his mom made him wear a mask made of a bra. Other poems were riddles and tongue twisters like “Jabberwocky,” by Lewis Carroll.

Several Jackson High School students attended the event with their English teacher Abagail Beckwith, who teaches poetry in her classes. One student, Winston Pais, said he is “not a poetry guy,” but still had fun and enjoyed the evening.

Several Southeast students stepped up to the podium to read their own works. One student, junior Atum Miles, shared a piece he wrote when he was younger titled, “Am I a Monster?” Miles said he has been writing since he was eight years old.

“I got my inspiration from poetry from Tupac Shakur and writing about traumatic experiences in my life,” Miles said. “I don’t really have a favorite style, and my own style would be reality, speaking on real-life experiences.”

Beckwith said Miles’ writing really impacted her.

“I really wanted to talk to him, as a teacher, and tell him that was so courageous, and so beautiful, and he needs to continue writing because he has an amazing talent for that,” Beckwith said. “Living that life with trauma and coming out of it and moving forward with his life is so admirable.”

Beckwith shared many of her own poems with the audience, as well, some memorized, some fun and some serious. She said poetry is important for coping with trauma, noting her own experiences.

“That was a place where I could just have control,” Beckwith said. “Any of us who have lived through trauma where we didn’t have control and nothing was within our ability to fix it, [poetry] was a respite.”

To learn more about the Crisp Museum and stay up-to-date on upcoming events, visit