An Inner Southeast restaurant becomes a monthly haven for those who have written, or just enjoy, poetry

RITA A. LEONARD - Jean Richardson welcomes poets to a meeting of the monthly "Shut Up & Eat Open Mic Poetry" group on S.E. Gladstone Street.Nearly two dozen poets and poetry lovers gather to read poems aloud at monthly meetings at "Shut Up & Eat" restaurant, 3848 S.E. Gladstone Street. The group was organized by Creston-Kenilworth residents Jean Richardson and Rhea Stadick last October. Visitors came from all over the city, as well as from Beaverton and Vancouver, Washington. "Our numbers are growing every day," smiles Richardson.

Those interested in attending the "second Wednesday" monthly meetings of this group are encouraged to contact it via e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – or to look for the group online at MeetUp. The "Shut Up & Eat Poetry Mic" event begins reading sign-ups at 6:30 p.m., allowing visitors a chance to order food and drink before readings begin at 7 p.m. These monthly meetings end at 9 p.m., when the restaurant closes.

"This is not a critique group," explains Richardson. "Each poet gets eight minutes to speak – although our occasional headliners, such as Judith Arcana (host of "Poetry & Everything" on KBOO radio) can go for 20 minutes. I founded this group because I know that poetry is good for people in crisis, and our culture and our country are both in crisis. We close each meeting reading Theodore Roethke's 'The Waking', which is very appropriate to the shifting state of consciousness in the culture at this time."

Richardson began publishing poetry as a teenager over 40 years ago. She has since appeared in several publications, including Copper Canyon, Media Weavers, and Blue Begonia. "The meeting-room here accommodates about 40 people, but by mid-summer our goal is to have poets lined up all along the sidewalk," she says. The vision is valid, since Richardson used to meet weekly at Cafe Lena on S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard in the '90's, where poets used to crowd in from a line extending down the street.

The poems read at the meeting we visited were in rhyme or free verse, some whimsical and others insightful. Each reflected personal views, and each received a response of applause, chuckles, or compliments. Visitor Oliver Yates observed, "This is a great outlet for poets, since SlamPoetry [a performance style] is not what I'm looking for – it takes away from poetry itself." Readings are a great way to become immersed in the cadence and shared appreciation of oral poetry and human values, he commented.

David Cook, a poet who also builds and installs residential curbside Poetry Boxes, read a prize-winning poem that had "helped me pay my rent," he said. He also read a poem he'd written upon finding an old telegram at a garage sale that had been addressed to a resident of a World War II Japanese internment camp.

Visitors at the meeting we visited included first-timers, friends of poets, and simply those who enjoy poetry.

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