Tucked away on the second floor of Demo’s, the landmark Greek restaurant on the St. Mary’s Strip, voices echo overhead. It’s Tuesday night, and the Sun Poet’s Society has gathered for its weekly poetry reading. The assembled participants take turns reading in a ‘round robin’ style, each reading original works, as well as selected pieces by others.
“I don’t know how to quit.” says Rod Stryker, the self-proclaimed ‘Unassuming Host,’ remarking on the twenty-two year run of weekly open mic readings.
Demos’ is the latest in a long series of homes for the Sun Poets. It has become something of a running joke for those associated with the group. Over the two decades since Stryker was asked by the owner of a small coffee shop in 1994 to host a weekly reading, taking the name from poetry magazine he was self-publishing at the time (The Sun Poetic Times), the group has traversed the city, moving from coffee shops to restaurants to bookstores.
Some places it once called home would ring long silent bells in the minds of people familiar with the literary scene of San Antonio – some long since disappeared, while others still stand. Its longest stint in one location was 14 years at Barnes and Noble’s At San Pedro Crossing on the city’s Northside. But, after management asked Stryker to hold monthly readings instead of weekly ones, it was time to go.
“The Sun Poets built its reputation on being the longest running weekly open mic poetry reading in San Antonio.” he said. Naturally, that reputation would need to be upheld. A new home was then found at the Olmos Pharmacy in Olmos Park. That location – like so many others before it – recently closed down, this time without notice. And so, after a brief search, Demo’s offered the longstanding institution safe harbor.
When asked about the difficulty of doing a reading each week and still juggling the everyday tasks required of this world, including finishing up a degree in creative writing at UTSA, Stryker expresses the fulfillment that this labor of love gives him. “This gives me purpose. This gives me the opportunity to be one with who I really am, which is a poet. I listen to new ideas. The society itself keeps me writing. People come from all over the world to read at the Sun Poets.”
The inspiration Stryker draws from those sometimes transient voices that shuffle in and out of the readings, as well as his own life experiences, have helped him write three books of his own work: Exploits of a Sun Poet, Lucid Affairs, and his latest, Native Instincts. He has also earned numerous writing credits in various published anthologies.
“In my opinion, poetry is flourishing,” Stryker said, referring to the many readings, festivals, and slams around the state, country, and the world. “It is experiencing a renaissance.”
The Sun Poets meet every Tuesday at 6:30 pm on the second floor of Demos’ Restaurant, 2501 N. St. Mary’s Street. The reading is free and open to the public – spectators and poets alike.