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PLU Open Mic featuring Raina León

PLU Open Mic featuring Raina León

Hosted by Emily Ruck Keene, photos by J. Mc Gimsey, video by Steve Nahaj.

Sweat, rap, music, stories. PLU’s open mic on July 17 was quite an education.

Term one


We started with Eliott, Victor Hugo and W.H. Auden, followed by more of Under Milk Wood in Kate’s glorious Welsh accent, love and silliness.


Friendly trucker Steve gave us a lesson of breaking down from his “Welcome to the Abyss”.

General Studies

It’s a small world, David A! Cornwall, Père Lachaise, Freedom from Torture and @ gave us an all-rounded Oxford education.


Bob’s real history of Bastille Day was enlightening, helping us join the dots between fashion and revolutionary history in Paris. Moe’s was a history of love for a friend…

“most i could do was shadow dance when that man took the floor”

… and Isabella’s mantilla

“I watched her brush her teeth with a sweep of her tongue”

History was again rewritten/sung by Fun King Nero and Petra. He’s realeasing his first album, FYI, and PLU (including Kate’s voice as special guest) features on the bonus track!

Academic Conference

Doctor Raina Leon was our overly-qualified featured reader! Great poetry, great brain, great smile, great hat (for someone quite so intelligent she has a surprisingly small head). Her new book is out, Boogeyman Dawn, if you want to be top of class. She warmed us up with some Marvin Gaye, then stuck it to our hearts and heads with weapons, children and darkness…


Term two

English Literature

Nick treated us to some Donne and Shakespeare, and Megan the rappeuse extraordinaire provided the contemporary element.

“you’re stunned by my jellyfish tongue”

French Language

Pierre reminded us we were in France, after all. Translations are due in next week.

“Je suis homme perdu dans le flot …. celui que personne n’attend chez lui”


Sam came with law enforcement to calm us down “This is the Police”, adding some cyberpunk and 16th century artwork to the mix. Christina stepped into then out of the moment.

“I am with you until you exit the building”… “I am now, and there was then.”

Home Economics and Biology

Our teacher Raina was back for more, with sweet foods, squirrels and neo-natal tragedy.

“honey will coil in my mouth”


Tracey took up the immigration question with an extract from her novel and her Kurdish protagonist.

Afterschool activities

We sacrified the virgin Ursula to Carol Ann Duffy’s Salomé, and Priscilla mmmm… ahhh… spit that led our group session.

“the hunger of being speechless”

“we get too comfortable in the dark”

It was too hot, and scool was over, so we all ran outside to listen to Missy go against the grain al fresco.


Dr. Raina J. León, CantoMundo fellow, Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, balances the twin vocations of poet and educator. As a poet, she has been published in numerous publications such as Natural Bridge, African American Review, OCHO, Black Arts Quarterly, Poem.Memoir.Story, Boxcar Poetry Review, Salt Hill Journal, Xavier Review, MiPoesias, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, and Growing Up Girl: An Anthology of Voices from Marginalized Spaces, The Journal (UK), Breach, The Packinghouse Review, Magma and the Poetry Society of America website, among others.

Her first collection of poetry, Canticle of Idols, was a finalist for both the Cave Canem First Book Poetry Prize (2005) and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (2006) and is now available through Wordtech Communications (2008). Her second manuscript, Boogeyman Dawn was a finalist for the Naomi Long Magdett Poetry Prize (May 2010) and will be published by Salmon Poetry (2013). She co-founded The Acentos Review (June 2008), an international quarterly online review fostering the work of Latino and Latina artists and writers. She continues to serve as its editor-in-chief. She has been a semi-finalist for the Split this Rock Contest (2011, “The Rising”) and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is currently an assistant professor in the Single Subject Credential Program-English Education at St. Mary’s College of California.

Raina headed the High School Literacy Project at the University of North Carolina where she recently received her doctorate in education. Her dissertation, Engagement through Poetry: A Qualitative Study of the High School Literacy Project, stems from the intersection of research into multicultural education, critical literacy and the teaching of poetry.

Curtsies and bows obligatory, see you from 8pm, Thursday 17 July at Culture Rapide in Belleville.


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