English Society’s open mic moves online

To accommodate students and community members dispersed nationwide due to COVID-19, the University of Iowa’s English Society transformed their “Doc John” open mic into “Doc Johnline,” a virtual reading event to be held over Zoom 7 p.m. Friday.


Abby Watkins

The English Society’s invitation to the Doc Johnline Open Mic photographed on Thursday, May 7, 2020. The annual event was moved to an online format over Zoom.

Abigail Wetteroff, Arts Reporter

Every year, the University of Iowa English Society holds an end-of-year open mic night to create a place to share burgeoning writer’s newest works. This year, the event will move to an online format to provide a final opportunity for writers to unite and share their work live.

Evalyn Harper, a current member of the English Society and next year’s marketing and outreach chair, recognized the need for students to share stories, especially now.

“We create art in order to share it with people, in order to share our experiences, our stories, so that other people can relate to them in some way,” said Harper. “There can be a sort of catharsis in sharing creative works with other people… It makes the process less lonely, and you get a glimpse of what the end goal is.”

The English Society is a student organization for all majors that organizes reading and writing events. Its “Doc John” open mic — named in honor of famed 18th-Century English poet, playwright, essayist, lexicographer, and biographer Samuel Johnson — has been re-dubbed “Doc Johnline” to complement its online transition this year.

English Society publicist Scott Magnuson said Johnson was an advocate for creativity and self-expression in its most raw, unfiltered sense. The writer believed in including all aspects of life in one’s art, including the good, the bad, and even the seemingly insignificant or mundane, he said.

“Several years back, a previous group of officers christened the Doc John open mic to echo that kind of biography in ourselves,” Magnuson said. “The things that we write reflect ourselves as whole people, and it’s those kind of (stories) that we want to share here.”

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Bruce Tanlin, marketing officer of the English Society, said having a sense of voice and community is essential to writers.

“A huge part of the arts is expression, and being able to express yourself involving others,” said Tanlin.

He said he believes that this open mic provides a space to do that on a virtual plane, where anxieties of current affairs can be momentarily laid aside.

The “Doc Johnline” open mic will take place via Zoom at 7 p.m. Friday. “Walk-ins” are welcome, as well as writers of all levels of experience from all different genres.