Our Fall season of VIM interviews continues with the always delightful and talented Misty Reign of Human Experience. A local poet and venerable co-host of the weekly cultural, music, and poetry open mic at The Beat Coffeehouse in Emergency Arts.
VIMMAG: Greetings Misty! You have been the heart and soul of Human Experience for quite awhile now, being a co-host of the popular open mic at The Beat Coffeehouse. The venue has been a central part of bringing culture to downtown Las Vegas, how has the experience been for you?
MISTY REIGN: It's incredible, I love Human Experience! Every Monday is different depending on who comes to share their art, so the energy is always shifting, always growing, always presenting the unexpected. I typically tell people that ask me what Human Experience is, is that it's whatever you make it. Truly. I started going to Human Experience because it was the only Open Mic where I felt motivated to be a better poet, and where I knew that the respect of the audience and the Hosts, Miss Joy and Jeffrey Bennington Grindley, created an environment where I was comfortable sharing my poetry. Poetry exposes the poet, when you step to a microphone to share your experiences, to open the otherwise hidden pages of your life to others and people talk over you, it's insulting. Human Ex isn't like that, the people that are there, are there because they want to be inspired, there's an artistic respect there not found in many open mics. I couldn't be prouder of how much it's grown, I've met so many people from all walks of life, that I would never have met if not for this event, the friendships I've forged, the loves I've lost, the pieces I've been inspired to write, I'm certain my sanity is forever indebted to Human Experience. Who would have thought I would gain so much from a coffee shop on the corner of Fremont & 6th.
VIMMAG: I have to say that I genuinely like the photography you take at Human Experience. I know a lot of times I use photos you take of me at at the Beat as my profile or cover pic on Facebook. What got you started on photography?
MISTY REIGN: Thank you! I'm a complete novice, so it always makes me happy when people like my pictures. I don't claim to be a photographer, I just think it's important to have pictures of yourself doing what you love, breaking out of your comfort zone and commanding the attention of your peers. I think as we grow it's important to have reminders of who we were and what we did that helped us get where we are in the present, and when we get lost, it's important to have a reminder as to a time in your life where you were actively participating in your happiness. Pictures do that. They are powerful. Feel free to print out anything I've taken and frame it like a college degree, or tape it to a Mr. Potato head, either way is glorious.
VIMMAG: Many people know you as a wordsmith and poet, when did you first start to write and how has it effected your life?
MISTY REIGN: I started seriously writing when I was about 9 years old. My Mother was a poet, and although I wasn't allowed to read any of her pieces, I was profoundly proud that somewhere, buried in our bookshelves, was a part of her so beautiful, so private, she wouldn't even show the sun. When I first started writing it was horrible, of course, complete trash, but it was natural, I didn't have to sit and think about what to say, it came pouring out of me onto paper so effortlessly that it was almost like I didn't have a choice, I had to write. Eventually I found my own voice, my own style and now, with the exception of music and good conversations it's the only thing that keeps me sane. Poetry was me in clay form, a tangible pile of words I was able to mold and shape until it was something I was proud of, something unique. It effects every single part of my life, it's who I am, it's what i do, it's how I see the world.
VIMMAG: Tell us a bit about your life in Vegas, are you native to the city and what was your first cultural experience that you can remember?
MISTY REIGN: I moved to Las Vegas from Clear Lake, California when I was 5 years old. Vegas was different back then. I spent a majority of my early years playing in the desert and riding my bike through washes. One of my first memories of it's growing culture was watching a friend's band rehearse in their parents garage. Eventually that band became The Skooners, The Skooners became The Rusty Maples and now they are playing huge festivals. It wasn't a substantial memory simply because they're well on their way to being famous, it sticks out because that's the first time I ever really sat back and watched the noise of ideas contort itself into music. When you are that young the whole world is in front of you, and without even realizing it, you are shaping who you are to become. Music. Music was the key element to discovering who I was and who I was going to be. My first exposure to the actual scene was at The Sanctuary, a tiny little venue attached to the Huntridge. it was there I fell in love with punk rock, where I learned the art of wasted youth, and, embracing my lack of better judgement, I got a fake ID. Not for liquor, liquor is easy to get when you are a teenager, no, I got my ID for shows, specifically Sunday Skoolin hosted at The Cooler Lounge, where I finally found the scene I connected with the most, Vegas's (still largely) unknown underground Hip Hop collective. After that it was over, I've been going to a show a week, every week since. My hearing is now horrible, too many nights next to speakers, I guess, but my heart is happy.
VIMMAG: Pick three of your favorite poems and tell us a bit about each one.
MISTY REIGN: Oh wow that's hard, I don't think I have a favorite poem, let alone three. I guess the pieces I enjoy performing the most are:
1. "Real Men" This one was inspired like most of my pieces, a boy disguised as a man broke my heart. I remember walking past a group of girls and listening to them talk about how horrible men were, how stupid and annoying they were. As I walked past I was instantly met with two conflicting ideas; a. That I agreed with them completely, and b. That I never wanted to think like that ever again. I thought of the amazing men in my life and was appalled for them, so I wrote this poem as a homage to those men and all the other good men out there that these ungrateful women were sure not to attract, let alone keep. It may or may not have started as a list of all the things my ex isn't, but it turned out to be something much more positive. I think I love this piece the most because of the reactions that I get from people after I have read it, from men and women, the appreciation, the "thank you for seeing things our way", to "Wow I've never heard anyone defend men so passionately" ...to a young women who gravely misinterpreted the entire piece and proudly confided in me that she "hates men" too, but that's poetry, no one interprets it the same.
2. "What she taught me" It's a homage to my amazing mother. It's hard to write a piece about the most influential person in your life. When someone has filled your life with all the lessons and guidance and compassion you need to know, how can you possibly thank them adequately? I tried to capture my thankfulness in this poem, I hope I did it justice. When I performed it at Human Experience, the joy in my mom's eyes, how proud she was, she cried, a true rarity, especially in public, and as soon as I was finished she rushed the microphone and hugged me. I have that moment forever buried in my smile, it's one of my favorite memories. And I still don't think the piece even came close to how appreciative I truly am for her.
3. I think third place is a tie between a couple of my shorter pieces, the ones that never see the light of day let alone a microphone. The ones that capture heartache, suicide, strength, and the aimlessness our soul feels when our actions are not aligned with our potential. Some things you simply need to keep to yourself. Notebooks are very good at keeping secrets.
VIMMAG: We have a great music scene here in Vegas, varying from MCs, rappers, to bands and ensembles. What are some of your favorite local musicians?
MISTY REIGN: I've been lucky enough to be immersed in the local scene for so long that is nearly impossible for me to pick favorites, but if I had to pick some it would include; Rusty Maples, HOTS, Days After Hail, MacroFi, Campfire, OLI, Awesome Possum, Kevin Alberto, Monica Sterling, RnR, and so many more. It would take forever to list all the artists I respect in this town.
VIMMAG: You were interviewed recently for The Music Scene, a local radio podcast about the local poetry scene, how was that experience for you and what do you think of the local poetry scene. From all the poets you all have featured, who has stood out the most?
MISTY REIGN: Yes, Brian Gibson connected me to Stephanie DeGraw, the host of the show. It's a great opportunity to get your music/poetry/art out there, she uploads all her shows to ITunes as a podcast so they can be accessed at anytime. It's an odd feeling, knowing that everything you're saying is being recorded, it definitely makes you more mindful of your words. Overall I was grateful for the opportunity to reach a different audience and to let them know that there's a refuge for their art, a safe haven, a place where we want to hear your stories, your tragedies, and your triumphs. She's always looking for new artists to interview so if you're reading this feel free to contact her or Brian Gibson.
VIMMAG: You took a trip to San Francisco for your birthday, how was that for you?
MISTY REIGN: Yes, I did, I prefer adventure to gifts, so for my birthday I drove up the California coast. It was breathtakingly gorgeous. I camped in Big Sur and spent time with my amazing nephews, brother and sister-in-law. I think travel is essential for the soul. The more you see, the more you learn about yourself. I can't even put into words how deeply needed it was to camp in a cove in Big Sur, to be surrounded by more stars than people, and let your mind wander into the silence only disrupted by the sound of crashing waves. It was one giant exhale.
VIMMAG: You had a photoshoot for VIM for this interview with local Photographer Shannon Dorn, how did that go?
MISTY REIGN: Shannon is amazing! I have been a fan of her work since her 702Subculture calendar. She has the ability to capture the beauty of the unexpected. That being said, I was extremely uncomfortable in front of the camera, I never know what to do with my hands, or my face, or my body, I just sort of stood there, holding these balloons in a very high wind, laughing at how ridiculous I felt trying to fight the elements to keep my hair out of my face. I'm certain most of the pictures she caught were me giggling.. The entire shoot went something like this: Shannon: "Serious face, Misty" Me: "Ok, right, I got this"..*giggle..*laughter" failure * balloon thrown wildly by the wind into my face Overall it was a great experience, Shannon is very good at what she does, and managed to get some great shots. I'm going to hire her to take some more pictures now that I'm more comfortable with my own awkwardness.
VIMMAG: What's next for you?
MISTY REIGN: Honestly, I just want to grow. I'm in a place in my life where I can't seem to absorb enough knowledge, I feel a deeply rooted, and sometimes nagging motivation to be a better person, to be truly happy, to live my art, to surround myself with those that inspire me, and that ... whatever that means, is exactly what I'm doing.