Outside the tiny auditorium, there's a coffee urn, plates containing a few pastries and bottles of ice cold water. But, for the poets and guests here for this evening's edition of The Poets' Corner, the tastiest morsels to be consumed are the words spilling from the poets' mouths.
Aggressive, powerful words from Donald Townsend, in his piece in which a gun speaks of the power it has and the damage it can cause.
Matter-of-fact words from Jerry J. Blackwell's poem about the idiocy of politics and politicians, followed by sweet words in a poem dedicated to his daughter.
And sultry, sensual words from Cinda Cianelli, who reads a steamy piece composed, oddly enough, in the waiting room of a doctor's office.
It's a smorgasbord for lovers of language and devotees of deep thought, and it's a feast for the taking on the third Friday of each month when The Poets' Corner, a free event sponsored by Las Vegas' Department of Leisure Services, convenes at the West Las Vegas Arts Center, 947 W. Lake Mead Blvd.
Host Keith Brantley says the event, which celebrates its 13th anniversary this month, grew out of a grant given to the center to promote literacy through the arts, with a special emphasis on reaching youth.
"It was actually supposed to be this one time, but it went over really big," Brantley says. "So it continued for another six months, and another six months, and the room would fill up with people. And it's just blossomed from there."
The event is "strictly open mic, which is a decision I made early on," Brantley says. While time limits are imposed -- to allow as many poets to read as possible -- poets are granted wide latitude in which to express their thoughts.
"Everybody gets welcomed regardless of what you want to talk about, whatever your subject matter is, whatever your form is," Brantley says.
Poets and spoken word artists simply sign in and await their turn. A typical evening may see from 18 to 25 readers, and "30, 40, sometimes 60 people in the room" to listen, Brantley says.
"We do emphasize that the subject matter can be adult in nature," Brantley adds. "I always, as an opening ... let (the audience) know this is true open mic, we have no forbidden language here, you may hear some things you don't like, you may hear some things you disagree with, you may hear some things that make you angry, but we have to have respect."
Yet, the venue is a welcoming one for both regulars and newcomers. The feel is of an intimate writers group, and poets invariably are greeted with applause and shouts of encouragement.
Cianelli has been writing poetry since third grade but reading publicly only since January.
"Actually, I write erotica, and I have a book I'm working on being published, and my editor at the time told me my voice was so lusty I needed to start reading in public houses," Cianelli says. "So, I just started doing it."
July's event marks her third reading at The Poets' Corner, and Cianelli appreciates its welcoming vibe.
"The first time I came here, I walked in the door and everybody hugged me and said, 'Are you gonna read?' " she recalls.
That, says Eric Handy -- who on this night presents a moving piece called "The Pages of a Man's Life" -- does make it a bit easier for poets to make the transition from writers of poetry to presenters of poetry.
"The first time I did it I was a little nervous," admits Handy, who has been reading publicly for about a year. "But you can't be nervous. You've got to just get up there and take a deep breath."
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.