‘Warehouse’ stocks poetry nights

The Warehouse on Gaines Street has college students flocking in increasing numbers, but the exterior appearance may have some mistaking the edifice for a nightclub.

Past the bar, the smoky billiards room and a dimly lit hallway – typical of an ordinary nightclub – is a larger smoke-free room, a secluded haven for poets and fiction writers.

On Wednesday nights, the Warehouse Reading Series is hosted by Florida State University creative writing graduate school students Cindy King and Rita Reese.

One may be impressed that some 30 students and professors filled the room for the occasion, but King said the turnout is usually much higher.

“You should see it when we have an international guest,” she said. “It’s out the door. We have a really huge turnout.”

Audience members seldom come to fulfill a class requirement. The only apparent driving force for the large crowds is a genuine interest in the fields of writing and poetry. Reese said she believes it to be a growing trend.

“It’s gotten much more popular over the years,” said Reese. “There is now a burning appreciation for spoken poetry, especially after Sept. 11. It makes you feel like you’re a part of the community.”

Ray Fowler, 22, a senior English student from Jacksonville, is one of the many college students who have a passion for poetry and show up for such events.

“It’s nice,” Fowler said. “I like being in a poetic atmosphere.”

The room was dimly lit with pink and white spotlights illuminating the main event on stage. A middle-aged woman with big, brown, curly hair stood on an area rug behind a podium introducing her next poem to a silent audience.

“I couldn’t get control of (this poem) so I let it go on without me,” said Florida State University Adjunct Professor Sally Warner as she began, making the audience chuckle.

“I wish you could shine that light inside us, just so you can remind us/Brother we are greater than our stumbles and scars/And we would fly so much straighter with the sum of our hearts,” Warner read in her poem,”The Sum of Our Hearts.”

It was no club, to be sure. The only sound of music was the muffled bass of the jukebox in the billiards room.

Poetry nights are a trend that continue to attract a growing number of college students. So much so that other poetry nights have begun to pitch their tents on Tallahassee’s nightclub territory, such as Mt. Zion Calypso Café and The Cove.

Fowler said he also enjoys the atmosphere of the Mt. Zion Calypso Café every other Thursday night when the Back Talk Poetry Troupe presents Black on Black Rhyme.

“It’s smaller, darker and they play music,” he said. “They even have the little shakers. It’s a cool atmosphere. You could take a date there.”

It was Fowler’s first time going to the Warehouse, but he said he plans to come back.

For more than a decade, the program has hosted the Writer’s Harvest, where writers from all over the globe gather to share their work with an eager

college-based public.

The program also has other events such as book fests at the Leon County Public Library, where Pulitzer Prize winners and other writers participate.

King attributes the continued success of the program to college students’ growing interest in poetry and the literary society. She said the program “doesn’t get much publicity,” aside from announcements about the readings in the Tallahassee Democrat, but the events are often filled beyond capacity.

The show is every Wednesday from 8-9:30 p.m. and there is no admissions fee.