Capturing Long Island’s Open Mic Scene

Long Island’s music, poetry and art scene is alive and well, and some would even say thriving.
On alternating Mondays in Port Jefferson, musicians and poets, and those who appreciate the arts, gather inside a crowded kava and kratom bar called Roots to share and listen. It’s a very special place because people of all ages and backgrounds put down their phones and any distractions and truly listen to the messages each person is trying to convey.

M.T. Pariti performs spoken word poetry from memory at an open mic at Roots.
(Photo by Anthony Torriero)

It was at that open mic, called Vision Airy Arts, where co-founder M.T. Pariti announced the launch of a new magazine called The Scene to a group of fellow artists. While he was speaking in front of everyone, he also spoke his original poetry from memory. The Scene art director, Steven Clifford, also reads poetry at that open mic.

Steven Clifford reading poetry. (Photo by Anthony Torriero)

The Scene will bring to its readers a compilation of poetry and art from artists all across Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Brooklyn. Readers will also get to enjoy interviews with open mic MCs and learn what open mics are happening near them.
“Poetry is very much alive,” The Scene’s website stated. “However, it flows unexamined en masse through the veins of different ‘scenes.’ We want to be a network of arteries connecting the isolated parts. The Scene eases communication to check the vitals. Our fingertips will touch the collective pulse of poetry.”
There will be a launch party for The Scene at the lounge, Industry, located at 344 New York Ave. in Huntington, in partnership with The Muse Exchange, a network that hosts open mics, on May 31 at 8 p.m.
Long Island Weekly spoke to Pariti about his background in poetry and open mics, the general Long Island art and poetry scene and what this new magazine will bring to Long Islanders.

Long Island Weekly: What got you into poetry?
Pariti: I feel like poetry, writing and art are, to some extent, compulsions. They are things that people feel the need to get out. I have that compulsion to express myself in that way. And, it’s something I’ve been involved with since my teen years, practicing a form of mindfulness through writing. [I] step away from my thoughts and process them and I happen to think oftentimes in rhythm and beat, so I just wound up finding poetry.

Long Island Weekly: When did you start attending open mics?
Pariti: I actually started attending open mics about seven to eight years ago. I just started getting on the scene. I was going to an open mic called The Muse… I know how alive and vibrant the [Long Island open mic] scene was, but how separated, isolated and insulated it had become… I stepped away for several years. COVID happened. Everything got shut down. And a year ago, I got back on the scene and that’s when I realized there was this need for something like this magazine to kind of highlight and help connect all these vibrant scenes that are scattered all over Long Island.

Long Island Weekly: How would you describe the Long Island art, music and poetry scene?
Pariti: I’d say it’s a living, breathing organism and it has different body parts that unfortunately, by their isolation, they can kind of start to decay. There are different scenes. There’s the older, library scene which is looking for a young infusion of blood. There’s the younger scene that you’ll find in Port Jeff. That’s a very college-aged scene happening. There’s also racial divides among the scenes. There’s The Bop open mic in Lindenhurst which is a really awesome open mic, but you don’t see the people at The Bop going to The Muse. You don’t see the library scene going to Poetry with a Purpose. And the whole idea here is to give everyone the opportunity to mingle. We’re all doing the same thing. A lot of the time, we’re all saying the same thing. And if we would just be privy to that, I think there’d be a lot more connection.

Long Island Weekly: When did the process of creating this magazine start?
Pariti: It started pretty recently. We just put out our eighth newsletter, so it’s been going on for nine weeks. And everything has really skyrocketed as far as progress. It’s myself and my partner Steven Clifford. He’s the art director and my partner in the project. Him and I were conversing one night over Twitter spaces and we were talking one night about how I was introducing him to the scene, because he was new to it, and I was telling him about all these open mics that he could check out. I was telling him about this idea I had to start an open mic or to start a quarterly print for people who are on the scene. We started talking about how our skill sets work well together and we decided, you know what, this should be something bigger than that. We fleshed out the DNA of the project, and it came to be.

To learn more about The Scene, submit art or poetry to it and to subscribe to the email newsletter, visit www.thescene.life.

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