LORAIN — Thursday night may have been one of the quietest nights in Speak of the Devil.
It wasn’t that the West Fifth Street cocktail bar was empty. They were listening to poetry.
The Ohio poet laureate Dave Lucas, along with locals Dianne Borsenik, of Elyria, and John Burroughs, of Parma, gave readings to eager onlookers, some sipping bar owner Kurt Hernon’s take on the American Poet cocktail as the evening went on.
“Kurt gave me two drinks and then asked me to do a poetry event for him,” Borsenik said of the event’s creation. “So I’m feeling no pain, I’m feeling good. I said sure, no problem.”
Two months later, she was taking the stage — a mic stand at the front corner of the small space — with Lucas and Burroughs. Several people, including Hernon and Borsenik, reached out to Lucas to get him to the evening’s performance.
“He had written back and said it depended on whether he had the evening off or not, because he’s a busy man, every night he’s someplace doing something,” Borsenik said. “When he wrote back and said yes, he was able to do it, I was just absolutely over the moon and delighted.”
While it was Lucas’ first time reading in Lorain, it wasn’t his first time performing in a bar. A founding member of Brews and Prose, a monthly literary series at Cleveland’s Market Garden Brewery, he said poetry is found more so in the bars of the Rust Belt than its universities.
“Bars are great places to use language in interesting ways anyway — think of all the great lies that are told in bars,” he said. “Some of the greatest fiction stories in America I’m sure are made in bars rather than in writer’s rooms, so why not poetry also.”
Borsenik and Burroughs gave 20-minute sets, and Lucas closed the night with a 30-minute reading — focusing on the charm of cities like Cleveland, Youngstown or Lorain, and some angel/devil references for the bar’s namesake.
For those who hadn’t seen a live poetry reading, or even really experienced poetry outside of a high school English class, Lucas hoped Thursday’s reading would help open those doors.
“I hope they take away enough enjoyment to want to do it again,” he said. I think that so often, I’m thinking of my students who often feel that they’ve got to figure something out and to take some of that pressure off and just sort of enjoy things I think makes all the difference in the world. … I hope that someone whose here for the first time likes it well enough to try it again and maybe try it again at some point after that and the next thing you know it’s a habit and somewhere after that it’s a life.”
The evening also kicked off to Episcopal Church of the Redeemer’s poetry contest, open to Lorain and Amherst residents 21 and older. Those interested can submit up to three poems until March 31 for a chance to win cash prizes. Winners will be notified April 15 and perform April 25 at Speak of the Devil. For more information, or to enter the church’s contest, email email@example.com.