Chai, Coffee & Poetry: Donkey’s Designated Space

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Jayne Yerrick

Donkey’s back room was packed to capacity. People crammed into the cozy room, many of them wearing beanies and rocking bangs, and some could only find space on the floor. The dimly lit room created a welcoming atmosphere, as lively conversation filled the room before the start of the event. 

Two microphones were set up on the small wooden stage to prepare for Donkey’s Designated Space, an event dedicated to sharing spoken word poetry every Tuesday at 9 p.m. 

Donkey’s Designated Space is structured enough to maximize freedom but it also provides organization. For instance, there is no set order of speakers beforehand. People that want to share their work are free to approach the microphone whenever they feel ready. The space is dedicated to providing people with the freedom to say whatever they’re feeling in that moment. 

It is evident that Donkey wants the Designated Space event to be a welcoming and inclusive environment. For this reason, each speaker was required to give “content warnings” before they read their work. These warnings were used for “problematic content,” like topics concerning sexual assault, depression or body dysmorphia. This was beneficial to audience members because it gave those with trauma an opportunity to tune out.

The works that individuals decided to share were quite diverse from one another, varying greatly in both topic and tone. However, no matter the work, the speakers tended to leave the audience with a powerful message. 

Some of the work presented touched on more serious subjects, like sexual assault and body image issues. Whereas others were more lighthearted, like poems solely focused on sex.

No matter the subject matter, the work was usually engaging with audience members. One piece of poetry in particular sparked a conversation among audience members about the need for menswear to better accentuate men’s butts.

An interesting touch at Donkey's Designated Space is the “poetry drawer.” The poetry drawer was created for those that are uneasy about sharing their personal writing in front of an audience, but still want their words to be heard. Anyone can simply drop their piece of poetry into the tiny wooden drawer and some other brave soul will share it with the room.

Rachael Parsons, a junior studying public health, is a regular at Donkey’s Designated Space. She first attended the event her freshman year and now tries to attend each week. Parsons is one of the individuals that bravely shares her poetry before the audience.

Parsons says that she has made friends by attending the poetry nights and describes the event as, “a really supportive environment.”  There was an overwhelming sense of community, as people listened to one another and were open to hearing the personal thoughts of those on stage. 

“The audience feels your pain with you and heals with you,” Parsons says.

This support from audience members was noticeable throughout the entire event. Each work was greeted with supportive snaps from audience members. 

Kinney Paige, a freshman studying applied mathematics, recently started attending Donkey’s Designated Space events. Paige says he has attended the event around 3 times so far, and his personal favorite poem was written about someone’s ex-significant other. 

“I just felt like it was really charged,” Paige says about the piece.

This passion united all the work presented at the poetry night. Each person stepped on stage with a purpose and a passion for their writing.