Love Jones Redux: Spoken Word with a Twist

Featured poets, open mic and a jazz trio enliven poetry nights

Since its founding in fall 2021, the private club, TolHouse, has been finding its bearings. Lucille’s, the on-premises jazz club, has been a welcome beacon of inspiration and elegance, with an excellent roster of performers. Lucille’s benefits from being an intimate venue that also offers food and drink for purchase during events. Seating is limited, so finding tickets to a show can sometimes be challenging.

Shepherding events

Several founding members of TolHouse have taken on roles as shepherds for various events happening on-site. One of them is Rhonda Sewell, the Director of Belonging and Community Engagement at the Toledo Museum of Art. Sewell is also a writer and champion of the arts – she previously worked at the Toledo Blade and is the current president of the Arts Commission. For many years in the nineties and aughts, Sewell emceed spoken word events at several venues around town, including the former Jackson’s Lounge and Our Brother’s Place. 

Her connections with the local creative community, specifically poets, have benefited the readings she has hosted. In addition to an open mic, each reading spotlights several featured poets who are allowed a longer set on stage. Another of the unique aspects of poetry nights at Lucille’s is that the readings are accompanied by a jazz trio, often professors in the jazz program at the University of Toledo, who also have played the stage with their personal music projects. Olman Piedra, Jay Weik and Norm Damschroeder are a few of the musicians adding ambiance and audible texture to the poetry reading.

Sewell chose the name “Love Jones Redux” as a nod to the 1997 film starring Nia Long and Larenz Tate, in which the two young professionals fall for each other at spoken word events. Though some of the Love Jones Redux readings have focused on love and intimacy, those are not the only topics featured in the performances. One night, hosted by CC (Chawone Ardrey), offered a prompt for performers to consider “light” as a starting point of inspiration. 

Poetry from the stage

There have been at least seven poetry nights at Lucille’s since the inception of Love Jones Redux. In addition to Sewell and Ardrey, hosts have included Huntor Prey (who emceed the most recent reading, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and Ky Holston. 

There are several featured poets chosen ahead of time by the host/emcee and an open mic signup sheet is available online prior to the event for attendees who’d like to share their work from the stage.

Readers will likely be familiar with several of the featured writers, including Ryan Bunch, Jodie Summers, Kerry Jensen Trautman and Lucas County Poet Laureate Jonie McIntire. Some writers who may be new to readers are Live Hightower, Norris Finley, Lena Banks, Clif Porter and Sierra Leone of Dayton.

The next Love Jones reading is Wednesday, February 15, hosted by Sewell, with improvisational backup sounds from Olman Piedra and Friends. Doors open at 6pm, reading starts at 7pm. $15 cover for non-members of TolHouse. Two drink minimum per person. Seating is limited. Tickets and open mic signup are available at Open mic signup must be complete by 6:45pm. 1447 N. Summit, Toledo.