Whether its books, records, magazines or movies, Half Off Books is sure to satisfy your literary needs. Especially with their open mic poetry readings referred to as Shout!

The Shout! open mic is held every second Thursday of every month at Half Off Books at 7 p.m. Anyone interested in reading poetry at Shout, there are few rules that are followed – poets get either two poems or three minutes, whichever happens first.

Also, the poets are noted to be mindful of the family oriented bookstore, so poets are advised not to say anything they’re not comfortable talking about to a parent outside of the venue.

Shout open mic reading was started by Eric Morago during his grad schools in 2007 and originally was hosted at a pizzeria in Whittier. Once the pizzeria closed down, Shout found it’s new home at the old Half Off Books location in Whittier in 2011. When Half Off Books moved to Fullerton in November of 2017, Shout had followed and started up shortly in Fullerton a few months after in January of 2018.

Eric Morago, a published poet and educator, spoke about how poetry open mics benefit the community.

“It’s necessary for a community to have a place to come and express themselves in a safe and respectful way, regardless of skill level.” said Morago.

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Shout attendees make conversation and sign up for the mic before the reading. Photo credit: Rebecca Hiraheta

Regulars love attending Shout to help get through life, it gives them a sense of safety in expressing themselves. Mara Van-Desseldorp, a regular at Shout since June spoke about how important the open mic is to her.

“[The open mic] gives me a place to share who I am in a sense; I started writing poetry as a way to deal with anxiety and depression. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.” said Van-Desseldorp.

Van-Desseldorp also added that if the open mic ever stopped or if for any reason she couldn’t go, she would be heartbroken.

Everyone was relaxed and engaged in conversation with old and new acquaintances; the turnout was so good that the crowd reached until the glass doors at the front of the bookstore. People were supportive and chatted after the reading complimenting each other’s work.

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Mara Van-Desseldorp, regular at Shout open mic, reads her letter that cannot be sent to the audience. Photo credit: Rebecca Hiraheta

Other regulars also find the open mic an important place of safety to express themselves. Donald Ishikawa, a regular of Shout since May, found the open mic helps with opening up to his emotions.

“It’s helped me to embrace everything I’m feeling and get that out.” said Ishikawa.

Ishikawa also added that it’s a joy to hear all the different voices and perspectives of different poets, and he would be crushed if Shout ever stopped due to that joy and Shout’s accessibility.

The open mic has a large spectrum of skill level presented at the mic, whether there are people who have been writing for a while or people reading their poetry for the first time. A lot of poets attend seeking to improve their craft.

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Eric Morago, host of Shout open mic, explains about some of the rules and guidelines at the reading for the poets Photo credit: Rebecca Hiraheta

Morago occasionally brings a feature poet for the reading, which is a poet that has a longer set, in order to set an example for younger poets.

The next Shout open mic will be on December 13 on Thursday at 7 p.m.

“Poetry open mics are incredibly helpful and useful to writers of all skill level to really home their craft. It’s a free opportunity to learn and grow.” said Morago.

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