Ever stand in front of strangers and share your original songs, stories, or poems? Given the right circumstances, it can be rewarding and downright fun. The atmosphere was friendly, appreciative, and nonjudgmental—in other words, perfect—at the Paulina Springs Books open mic last week.

More formally known as “Music, Poetry & Storytelling Open Mic,” the monthly event invites the Sisters community to share their work in a low-pressure environment, free of charge. For those who aren’t performing, it’s a great way to soak up local talent, browse books, and have a few snacks.

The evening kicked off with Shelby, a.k.a. Midnight, who played acoustic guitar and sang.

“It’s a song about how I love to go into my imagination,” she said, “but sometimes being in your imagination, running away, doesn’t solve everything.”

A self-assured presence in torn jeans and Sharpie-illustrated Chuck Taylors, the teenager sang, “I hope that / you’ll come to me / I’m living / in the dream.”

Katy Yoder, wearing silver and turquoise earrings shaped as little horses, read a story about her “once-in-a-lifetime horse.” The emotional journey she shared is part of a work in progress, in a genre she calls speculative nonfiction. “Will Rogers had Trigger,” she began. “I had Topper.” Yoder wept openly during the story’s end, joined by many audience members.

Local artist, storyteller, and musician Paul Alan Bennett managed to get a roomful of adults (and one crying baby) to pretend they were Pegasus, flying about the night sky. He sang a funny, original a cappella composition telling the history of the Trojan War.

With the sound of a sea chantey or drinking song, Bennett’s ditty required audience participation, especially on the chorus.

“Let’s drink to the face of Helen, for we’re Agamemnon’s boys!” the audience sang, sounding a bit like pirates.

Bennett will bring his ukulele, songs, and stories to Sisters Farmers Market on June 16.

Before the SPRD beginning fiddle class played, the teacher mentioned that when people first start practicing fiddle, it can sound like dying cats. The group performed three old-timey, toe-tappin’ tunes, including the classic Old Joe Clark. The group played well together, and no felines were harmed during the production.

Poet Becca Rose read two linked poems about the massive flurries of migrating butterflies that one inevitably runs into on Central Oregon highways at certain times of the year. Often, vehicles literally run into them, leaving only marks on their windshields.

“Every summer a murderer / they made me,” she read aloud from the first poem. Her work queried the carelessness of modern humanity today as we run over and through other lives—those of butterflies, human migrants, and perhaps of the earth itself. Subtle and lyrical moments arose, swept along by clattering plosives and alluring


The second poem proposed a more satisfying and compassionate scene: what if everyone in their cars slowed down for the migration, “a moral law that you stop and wait for the butterflies”? She envisioned drivers waiting contentedly for weeks, digging into the rations of peanut butter they’d brought along just in case, rather than kill another soul.

Rose, who soon heads to the University of California at San Diego to earn her MFA, was the night’s final open mic participant. Then bookstore owner Lane Jacobson ended the evening as he usually does: by reading from a compendium of obituaries.

He described living with a family in North Carolina whose matriarch was an obituary writer. They and their friends, he explained to much laughter, used to write fake obituaries for friends and visiting authors.

On this night Jacobson chose Jesse James, killed by the Ford brothers in 1882; the obituary was fascinating and full of rich detail. The writer compared James’ home to an armory, describing various weapons and the murder scene in graphic, nearly forensic terms.

Jacobson had just returned from BookExpo in New York. He sits on the Committee for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity for the American Booksellers Association, along with its Booksellers Advisory Council.

“It’s important to go rub shoulders and schmooze,” he said. This is part of how he draws national writers to give readings at Sisters’ local bookstore.

Jacobson also appreciates the camaraderie and long-held friendships. “I was on the show floor with friends when I heard about The Times,” he said. The New York Times had just published a feature about Bend, Oregon, and environs that week, praising Paulina Springs Books.

“It was cool to be around a bunch of my peers when that happened,” he said.

The next Music, Poetry & Storytelling Open Mic takes place Monday, July 1, at 6 p.m., at Paulina Springs Books, 252 W. Hood Ave. in Sisters. More information is available by calling 541-549-0866 or visiting www.