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WNP to feature poet, barista tonight

February 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Stevie Darling - Submitted photo

Wednesday Night Poetry at Kollective Coffee+Tea, 110 Central Ave., will feature Hot Springs poet and barista Stevie Darling this week.

The regular open mic session for all poets, musicians and storytellers will begin at 6:30 p.m. today. Darling will begin her feature set at 7:15 p.m., followed by another round of open mic. Admission is free and open to all ages. All are welcome. Masks are required for entry, and for the duration of the indoor event.

Born in Little Rock and raised in Bryant, Darling moved to Hot Springs six years ago. "I fell in love with the waters and couldn't leave," she said in a news release. "I am single now (after nine years of marriage) with no children and two cats, Bicklet and Sammy Davis Jr. My parents live in Benton and Bryant, and are very proud that I have not bothered them with grandchildren."

Darling attended Arkansas Tech University as part of the honors program to pursue a degree in English education. "I dropped out with a semester left and flirted with sustainability classes through Arizona State University before I decided I was going for the college dropout world record," she joked.

Darling has been the barista on duty for Wednesday Night Poetry since WNP returned to in-person readings last July. "I've been a barista at Kollective for nine months now, and have been making coffee for five years. I started writing poetry for a girl in the sixth grade because she liked Edgar Allen Poe and I thought I could get her attention. I didn't get her attention, but I did discover a love for writing. I did a slam poem for my high school talent show, which led me to the central and northwest Arkansas slam scenes, and I played with that during my college years. I got married and stopped writing for a long time, until I started working at Kollective and found a safe community with WNP," she said.

"I write a lot about my life experiences, love, and loss. I am haunted and vexed by astronomy and biology, and am inspired to write by science and spirituality. My favorite poets are Andrea Gibson and Sharon Olds. I am unpublished, but about a decade ago, I opened for TJ Medel, who was a popular Arkansas slam poet at the time. He paid me $20, so that pretty much counts as a paid gig," she said.

"I found WNP over 10 years ago when it was held at the Poet's Loft. I just happened to walk past the door one day and wandered inside with my sister. Since becoming regularly involved in WNP, it has become my church and my community. It's a place to share my struggles and successes with friends and strangers, a place to be seen after feeling invisible for so much of my life, and an opportunity to hold space for those who feel the same. I have been honored over the last nine months to serve and participate," Darling said.

"Stevie has bloomed from the sweet and spunky barista behind the counter to a poet who stands with power and beauty behind the microphone. Her writing is deeply image-driven, detailed, transporting, and lovely. I especially enjoy her poems on love and relationships, such healing defiance in her words," WNP Host Kai Coggin said in the release.

"We all watched from Facebook as she gallivanted on a solo backpacking trip to Spain and France last month, and I know that the poetry from those Mona Lisa moments and serendipitous encounters with strangers have made a poetic impression on her heart. I can't wait for Stevie to shine this week!," Coggin said.

This week marks 1,726 consecutive Wednesdays of open mic poetry in downtown Hot Springs since Feb. 1, 1989. "WNP is the longest-running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country, now recently in partnership with Arkansas Learning Through the Arts, to share in the mission to spread arts awareness in our local community," the release said.

Email [email protected] for more information.

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