4th annual Holland Pride Poetry Contest returns with Open Mic Night

Emiliah Tanya Jo Odinsdottir dreams of one day publishing a book of her poetry that has documented her life as a trans woman. 

Her poem, “I Am Woman,” selected for the Pride Guide, feels like a step toward that dream.

“I’m excited to share a piece of myself,” says Odinsdottir, “because in this post-COVID world, I feel like people are much more closed off. I hope that it will inspire others to break this cycle of anxiety and share a bit of themselves with the world, because how can we ever hope to light the darkness if we keep our hands cupped over the flame where no one can see? Our flames can only become an inferno if we let our lights shine.”

The poetry contest that grew out of a collaboration with Out On the Lakeshore and Herrick District Library is marking its fourth year.

“The event originated as an opportunity to highlight the PRIDE Poetry Contest winners, but has evolved into much more that we could have imagined,” says Holland Pride Coordinator Sarah Tyria.

Winners are invited to share their poetry at the contest’s third annual Open Mic Night on June 1 from 3-5 p.m. at HDL’s Northside branch, 155 Riley St. in Holland.. 

“Folx from all over West Michigan join us to share their original social justice or LGBTQ+ themed works,” Tyria says. “Together, we create a safe space where vulnerability and connection are fostered and nurtured. It is truly a beautiful event.” 

The winners’ poetry will be published in this year's Pride Guide Magazine. Tyria noted that half the winners of the contest were under age 18. Youth need their parents’ permission to participate.

The guide lists all the organization’s June events and their sponsors.

Supporting and sharing 

“A couple of years ago, we were working with Out On the Lakeshore and found out about the Pride Guide,” says Natalie Williams, HDL’s assistant director. “We talked about poetry and a mutual love of poetry and creating a supportive community for artists and writers. We worked together to create an open mic for the poets.”

It was organized so that the winners have an opportunity to share their work, and then others can come and read their work as well.

Poet Emiliah Tanya Jo Odinsdottir with her dog, FenRir.

“The event supports writers, poets, artists, creators, and the community who loves them. I love it. And so even if there are people who didn't win the contest, they still have a chance to share their work.”

The event usually draws around 100 people, Williams says.

“It’s  just a very affirming event. It’s just such a supportive space where people read poems that really mean something to them, and there's a community there that just listens and offers love and support.”

Priority for stage time will go to Holland Pride poetry contest participants. All content must be LGBTQ+ or social justice related. Each performer will receive up to five minutes to share their original song (acoustic only),  poem/spoken word, or short story. 

Participants may register in advance by completing the online registration form. There will also be a registration at the door for empty time slots on a first-come, first-serve basis. If time allows, the mic will open to the audience at the end of the event for any additional sharing that follows the guidelines.

“HDL's mission of empowering our community to connect, discover, and create fits perfectly with this opportunity for creative expression in an environment that fosters connections,” Williams says. “Libraries are storehouses of so many different stories, so it is only fitting that we partner with Holland Pride/Out on the Lakeshore to hear the stories of our neighbors.”
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.