Vendola: Oh, to get the other poets or creative people out of the closet. We were trying to do open mics, some of it at his house one time. Then we really weren't able to do that anymore, we had to change that. So we went to Oasis and then he said there weren't enough people. Then I decided, well, it's going to be for anything, not just poetry. So that's how I've been getting more people that way.
DTH: What would you say are some of the highlights of the event?
Vendola: They're always different. The highlight of last month was a well-known piano player, he came and played. And another well-known writer, poet and musician who sang some of his own songs — so they were there last time, and we had a couple of poets too. It ranges from say seven to 18 people.
DTH: What do you hope to see by the end of the night?
Vendola: Oh, that I inspired someone to get up and do something. Encourage them, inspire them — and it's happened. I've had people who had never, you know, read their poem or I had people who had never got up and sang. I said you don't have to, but if you feel like you might get comfortable… and they end up saying to me lots of times that was the first time they ever got up and entertained. One lady even just sang without music. So I loved the idea of inspiring other people to express their creativity, whatever that is. And Doug, he likes to see people, and have them progress with their creativity — he's an artist too.
DTH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Vendola: If you don't think you're creative, you're wrong, because there's probably something you do that you don't realize how great it is. It's true. There's a lot of people who are doing things think like, "Oh, I just do gardening," or "I just do this." And I go "What? What do you mean 'just'?"
The Daily Tar Heel: Tell me about Passionate Poets.
Doug Stuber: The poetry open mic scene is almost as vibrant as the music one in the Triangle, and that is saying something. I think what Wednesday does is a good opening for the one that's been going on forever at The Nightlight, back when it was under different names and going back at least 20 years. They had musical open mics, but poets could step in. So, the one out in Unity gives folks a shot to warm up for the later activities, or just shine on their own. We give people a lot of time – depends how many people show up. There are a lot of open mics where you get one poem and you're out. The range of open mics is also quite astounding to the normal passerby. The once a month, second Thursday event at Flyleaf Books is amazing. Even the open mic poets are top names. The Unity one, we've had a whole variety of people — music and poetry, but it's mostly poetry. It started off at Oasis and then it moved.
DTH: What are some of the highlights of the event?
Stuber: I'd say for this event — and it's not even half a year old yet — are the surprising new folks that join. The highlight is that it's always fresh. It seems to be three or four regulars, maybe as many as six regulars and then a great variety of first-timers.
DTH: How long has Passionate Poets been putting on open mic nights for?
Stuber: We're up to six months, probably six months by now.
DTH: When did you decide to start Passionate Poets?
Stuber: Vanessa and I go way back. It was mainly her idea, and then I jumped on board to try to promote getting some people there just as a helper. I think her passion with poetry is the kind of new age hippie-dippie religion that Unity practices, which is great. But the open mic has nothing to do with that. It has some spiritual-minded poets, but there's a difference between spirituality and religion. So I'd say in this case, we have left-wing, right-wing, all kinds of poets show up, and that's what we wanted. We thought the name would attract people who really had poems that were on the passionate side, rather than on the, oh I don't know, eco-side. You have a lot of environmental poets who are also passionate, but anyway. It's a strange world out there and a lot of times the street poets are really good, and they don't get a voice with the publishers very often. I think to have an open mic setting where there's no star poets, just a straight open mic is a really good thing for this town. Nightlight is probably the only other one that's the street poets. The one at Flyleaf, lots of times you run into a whole bunch of academic poets, who heck, they're great too — what the heck, it's all good. So we can have a different flavor kind of, so far. You never know who's going to show up. We don't expect to get well-known, well-published poets, and that's fine, because it gives more time for those who might have a great thing to say.
DTH: How old are the performers usually?
Doug: We get maybe ages 16 to 80, or beyond. So it's an interesting, a very interesting mix.