By Wilson Criscione
Once a week, local writer Travis Naught rolls up to the stage in his wheelchair, lowers the microphone and reads to an eager audience, sometimes poetry, other times a piece of fiction.
He is one of many writers to participate in “Naked Lunch Break,” a literary open mic and reading series which takes place Thursdays at noon during winter quarter at the phase one auditorium on Eastern’s Riverpoint campus in Spokane.
“There’s a great sense of community here,” Naught said.
The mood is bright. Most recently, Jonathan Potter, the reading series’ creator and librarian at the Riverpoint campus, began the reading with a song in which the audience was to cheer every time the word “library” was sung and boo at the word “Internet.”
The name “Naked Lunch Break,” is coined in part because of the nature of revealing artistic work on stage.
“It’s pretty scary for most people to stand up at the microphone and read or recite their stuff,” Potter said. “You’re pretty exposed up there.”
Before the event begins and during breaks, Spokane-based bands, such as The Rustics and Flying Spiders, resonate through the modest auditorium.
EWU Libraries sponsors the series, and even provides free pizza for attendees and performers.
“I thought it would be a nice way to break up the day,” Potter said.
Each week has one or more featured writers, and others can sign up for three minutes in front of the mic.
“It’s a little nerve racking to do open mic poetry at a time of day when it’s not socially acceptable to be drunk,” said Miles Martin, a participant who graduated from Eastern’s creative writing program recently. “But that’s part of the fun.”
But if the readers are nervous, they often do not show it.
“I’ve seen some outstanding work performed at ‘Naked Lunch’,” said Marshall Peterson, who works to help expose many local artists. “It’s the performance aspect that captivates you.”
Some of the readings involve more performance than others, like Isaac Grambo, a prominent slam poet, aptly dressed in a black suit and bright red tie to go with his thick mustache. His slam poetry is both humorous and deeply reflective, in large part due to his animated style.
Potter started the series as a way to do something unique in the community and to bring writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry out of the woodwork. He was inspired by the success of “Broken Mic,” a weekly poetry reading at Neato Burrito in Spokane.
“There’s a thriving writing community in town,” Potter said.
According to Peterson, this series is for everyone, not just poetry lovers. Although many readers are poets, writers of journalistic nonfiction occasionally read their work as well.
“Not only should poets and poetry groupies attend, but also people who normally run away when they hear the word ‘poetry,’” Peterson said.
And those in the community like Naught and Martin are excited for any opportunity to display their talent.
“At it’s best, the ‘Naked Lunch Break’ is a showcase for some of EWU’s ballsiest poets. At it’s worst, it’s a freak show with free pizza,” said Martin. “I’m always game either way.”