Red Dirt Poetry offers a platform to seasoned and aspiring poets alike

click to enlarge Red Dirt Poetry offers a platform to seasoned and aspiring poets alike
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - NOVEMBER 12, 2014: Benjamin Cease reads a poem to members of Red Dirt Poetry at Sauced in Oklahoma City Wednesday November 12, 2014. CREDIT: Nick Oxford for The Oklahoma Gazette


The room is at capacity and there’s anticipation in the air similar to that before a rock concert. The energy is positive and edgy. There are inevitably the guys and gals who walk into Sauced on the Side, 2912 Paseo Drive, to grab a cocktail or beer and get curious.

“Not a night passes that we don’t have one outsider say to me or the co-host that they had no idea we had this going on,” poet Rob Sturma said. “Most times we see them back the next week.”

He and his co-host, Tapestry, emcee a weekly, Wednesday-night open-mic night that draws both spectators and participants.

It’s a mixed crowd on Red Dirt Poetry nights at Sauced, and the sign-up sheet fills up fast.

Once the words start flying, it is powerful and cerebral. The poets, from nervous first-timers to pros, bare themselves to a room of, for some of them, strangers. The hosts like to keep things low-key, encouraging and maintaining a positive vibe.

“We definitely have one of those scenes here where there is a lot of support from fellow poets, especially from those who have done it a while to those new to the whole thing,” Sturma said.

More experienced poets often find themselves mentoring new poets. There is seldom a competitive vibe, and this confidence separates the Oklahoma poetry scene from the others that Sturma has been a part of. The readings — and even the slams — take on a kind of rock ’n’ roll atmosphere where anything goes, and the bar definitely doesn’t hurt for business.

“Poets and writers, they work well in that environment where you can kick back and have a few drinks,” Sturma said. “Sauced has been a really great place for us, and they’ve just been wonderful to work with.”

There was one night, Sturma said, when the atmosphere got even more rock ’n’ roll — perhaps even surreal — than usual. A band performed before the reading, and the dramatic stage lighting also included a disco ball.

“As if that wasn’t enough to set the mood, the lights were set to pulse with each word going into the microphone, which made everyone’s poem, like, 500 times better,” he said, then laughed.

Sturma loves the environment OKC offers, especially with Red Dirt Poetry, which morphed from The Home for Wayward Poets, established before he decided to relocate here after visiting during a book tour.

“The second time I came through here, I just knew that this was where I was going to stay,” he said.

As for fledgling poets, Sturma is passionate about having a space where young people can express themselves in any way they see fit. He is proud to note that three of the 12 nominees for State Youth Poet Laureate are also Red Dirt Poets.

“We’ve kind of cultivated a younger readership and we’re getting a lot more youth,” Sturma said. “Even though we are a very free-speech reading, we want to make sure that teens and youth want to read and find a place and they feel comfortable reading.”

The sign-up sheet is open to anyone, and Sturma said he tries to let everyone perform who wants to, but all are welcome to come and listen.

“Who knows?” he said. “You might realize you do have something to say.”

Print headline: Saucy slingers, With its weekly poetry night, Sauced on Paseo offers a platform to seasoned and aspiring poets alike.

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