Calling All Poets: Black Sheep Poetry Hosts First Open Mic

Jack+Cutajar%2C+FCRH+%E2%80%9923%2C+performs+a+poem+onstage+during+Black+Sheep+Poetry%E2%80%99s+first+open+mic+night.+%28Courtesy+of+Zoe+Karoub+for+The+Fordham+Ram%29

Jack Cutajar, FCRH ’23, performs a poem onstage during Black Sheep Poetry’s first open mic night. (Courtesy of Zoe Karoub for The Fordham Ram)

Zoe Karoub, Contributing Writer

The lights are dim, poets are speaking in rhythm and rhyme, audience members are snapping. Fordham’s Black Sheep Poetry group is hosting another show to share their performance poetry skills. But this time is different: the group that typically produces shows starring only their members has now opened the stage to the entire Fordham community in an open mic format. 

On March 21, Black Sheep hosted their very first open mic in Collins Hall’s Blackbox Theater. Home to all Fordham Experimental Theatre (FET) productions, the Blackbox is a hub for student creativity. Tucked away from the center of campus in a small, dim room, student performers are free to express themselves and explore their ideas. The space makes sense for performance poetry, which requires writers to be vulnerable and open up their hearts to an audience. 

Several participants felt compelled to experience that vulnerability at last week’s open mic. In fact, the night opened with two non-members and first-time performing poets. Though no stranger to writing poetry, Kelly Stanton, FCRH ’25, is new to performing it. She attends all the Black Sheep events, but the open mic was her first chance to step onstage. Stanton offered a rumination on the names her mother almost gave her, wondering whether she would be a different person with those names. 

Alex Drury, FCRH ’24, shared an apt piece about performing poetry, which he admits was a difficult adjustment. He discussed the unfamiliar challenge of finding a “balance” between writing for himself and writing for an audience. Ultimately, the supportive nature of the group encouraged him to get onstage. “Black Sheep is a great community where you can really feel the support at every moment,” said Drury. “I knew that it didn’t really matter if my stuff was not as good as I wanted it to be.”

That welcoming spirit stood out at last week’s open mic. Everyone had encouraged reluctant writers to share their work, which often proved successful. The audience validated each individual performer with constant snaps and cheers. The hosts even invited participants to read genres of writing besides poetry, such as short stories or comedic routines. Black Sheep wanted everyone to feel confident and included throughout the entire night. 

Black Sheep co-captains Ren Alberton, FCRH ’23, and Liam Mottolese, FCRH ’24, were definitely pleased with the open mic and the bravery of the participants. Volunteers were split evenly between members and non-members. “The open mic went a lot better than expected! I was really excited to see poets who weren’t part of Black Sheep going up on stage to perform,” Alberton happily revealed. 

Mottolese  added, “It’s a lot to ask to get people up on stage to show their writing, so I’m glad we got who we got.” They hope to continue these kinds of events in the future. 

When the two longtime members considered their favorite parts about Black Sheep, they both shared Drury’s appreciation for its camaraderie and openness. Alberton credited Black Sheep with providing a  “great creative outlet” and community, especially in difficult times. They also noted that Black Sheep has allowed them to improve in other creative pursuits, such as acting in Shakespeare plays. Mottolese described the environment as judgment-free, explaining that members are extremely relaxed and open with each other. “We all feel free to try new things with our poetry and change and experiment. No approach or idea is off the table,” he said. 

For those who are intrigued by the open mic or Black Sheep Poetry in general, Alberton says “go for it.” They urge Fordham writers to attend Black Sheep auditions at the beginning of every semester. Prospective members only need to prepare two brief poems, and memorization is not necessary.

Whether you’re a poet or not, catch the Black Sheep Poetry team in action at their upcoming performances on April 28–29 in the Blackbox Theater. More information can be found regarding their schedule on Instagram @black.sheep.poetry within the weeks to come.