Cultivating The Open Mic

Poet, author, community activist, influencer, youth advocate—these are all roles Qosmic Qadence undertakes in his pursuit of community expression. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Qosmic Qadence came to Phoenix with artistic collaboration in mind. Qosmic, or Q for short, began writing poetry in his adolescence while looking for a space of poetic freedom. When he couldn’t find it, he founded Poetic Soul, a community-driven open mic and general arts event that allows folks from all walks of life to ditch labels and be who they are—artists. Six years in, Q has no intention of stopping anytime soon and neither does the community formed around the Poetic Soul open-mic.

WOD: What drove you to create Poetic Soul?

Qosmic Qadence (QQ): As a poet, I would bounce around different open mics in Phoenix, especially when I was working on publishing my books. I was looking to perform in a room with people, especially creatives, to get genuine feedback on my work. Most of those open mics I had gone to weren’t full of people wanting to hear the art, they were full of artists who were waiting for their time on the microphone to show off their art only. A lot of those rooms weren’t as respectful, but there were some that were incredibly supportive rooms, not because the artists were there for themselves but they were there to immerse themselves in all art brought into that room, not just their own.

And, for me, I gained a thirst for that. I thought, “What if the people showed up, for these artists who need to hear them?”

WOD: Was it difficult to start Poetic Soul?

QQ: Kind of not. This was born out of the necessity for an experience in Phoenix that was all-inclusive arts-wise. I had worked collaboratively prior on a similar experience in Scottsdale and when that partnership didn’t work after one or two events I was like “Oh ok, well that kind of sucks.” I would be contacted later by a venue owner to create an experience inside her place, a spot called “Our Lounge” over on 7th Ave. and Claredon. At first, I didn’t want to create any competition for that first event I fostered, and then I was like “Wait this guy just kicked me out of the car on this last event, there’s no loyalty there.” Scottsdale is Scottsdale and Phoenix and Phoenix, and maybe artists here don’t wanna commute or be in that super snazzy scene. It was then I decided you know what, why not? Let’s take a crack at it!

WOD: What’s your favorite part of the curation process when looking for acts to perform at Poetic Soul?

QQ: Taking in the art is probably the best on varying levels. What happens is, people, walk into this experience for the first time, and think we’ve hand-selected these artists. Six years running, I never know what the lineup will be. I have no idea who’s gonna show up until people show up, and every single week we have a great lineup of artists that just come up and deliver some magical craziness that none of us could expect. A lot of the time its artists that are new, and then sometimes it’s artists that we’re familiar with, who already have some fame, and it’s always such a great blend.

I’ve definitely learned, not to judge a book by its cover. We got this woman before who was like 70 something right, and she’s just like, “Yeah, I’m here to perform tonight! If you guys don’t mind, I’d love to get on the list.”. Night of the performance she comes up and she’s rapping! Suddenly I’m like, “Oh my god, she got bars!” That’s where I get my high.

WOD: What does the emphasis on community mean to you?

QQ: The beautiful thing about it is that it’s not mine, it’s all of ours. It’s every person who attends, every single artist who touches the stage week after week, those who have come many years back to those who are new. The community sustains itself in each dollar spent and chair filled. I feel the support with every first-timer we get. We get a chance to experience an artist tonight for the very first time, and maybe they’ll come 48,000 times after this, but no moment will be like tonight. I’ll be able to talk about how nervous they were as they walked on, and I get to reflect on that as I watch them evolve creatively.