A Newburyport woman wants to give everyone five minutes, and she’s got the microphone to do it.
“People will say, ‘Oh, I’d love to come, but I’m not going to speak,’” said Isabell VanMerlin, the self-described founder and instigator of Merrimac Mic, a weekly open mike night held at Plum Island Coffee Roasters at Hilton’s Marina in Newburyport. “And usually they wind up speaking because it’s not invasive.”
Running every Thursday evening, Merrimac Mic gives anyone who wants a chance to be heard.
“Whatever is going on is well-received, and they like it,” VanMerlin said. “It’s poetry, spoken word, written word. Sometimes we have songwriters who will bring in a guitar or something and play a song. A lot of this stuff is very personal, deep, funny and very moving, too.”
VanMerlin has been teaching English as a second language, Spanish and creative writing with Newburyport Adult & Community Education since 2009. A former resident of Lynn, she moved to Newburyport a year ago and still frequents the Speak Up! open mike nights at Lynn’s Walnut Street Cafe.
“It became such an important part of my life,” Van Merlin said of Speak Up! “It’s a wonderful community. Everyone is welcome, and there is no critiquing or that sort of thing. It’s been a really great outlet for expressing myself and my writing, thoughts and the poetry that I do. And I know there are a ton of writers and just human beings on two legs in this part of the world, so there’s a lot of enthusiasm for it.”
VanMerlin knew she wanted to bring something like that to Newburyport, and Merrimac Mic was born in September.
“There’s a huge range of what people say and read and speak about. The bigger the range, the better,” she said. “I really love to encourage students of any age to come. Once they get here, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah. This is cool. I’m going to do it.’ That’s the deal.”