The Open Mic Project: Lilly Penhall
The Open Mic Project The Open Mic Project: Lilly Penhall
Lilly Penhall. Photo courtesy Nico Ricoy. Born March 8, 1982 in Denton, Texas to a family of professional musicians and thespians, Lilly Penhall is no stranger to the world of performance art and the written word. The progeny of artists, she grew up listening to her father play local bluegrass festivals and watching her mother Vicki perform in stage plays and musicals. Her brother, with the Miles Penhall Band, has played shows across the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It was this heritage of artistry that led her to begin writing song lyrics and skits at a young age, and eventually to writing the poetry for which she is now best known.

Lilly began writing poetry when she was in the third grade. Her first poem, “On the Brink of a Desert,” won first place in an elementary school arts competition, leading to its publication in The Dallas Morning News in January 1991. In 2000, after years of going solo, she was introduced to the Dallas poetry scene by way of Clebo Rainey’s slam poetry nights at the old Insomnia Coffee Bar in Deep Ellum. Although initially less than impressed by the slam scene, she eventually found her first poetry home there with the advent of the Tuesday open mic night hosted by Joey Cloudy and Lisa Cunningham. After about a year, she left Insomnia and studied creative writing at the University of North Texas, and went through a self-described period of writer’s block called marriage. Then, in 2009, after an eight year hiatus from writing, she reconnected with Joey Cloudy, who re-introduced her to the local scene through Johnny O’s Mad Swirl open mic and Opalina Salas’s Poets on X+ readings, where she took the mic for the first time since 2001. This proved to be the pivotal moment in her literary career and the beginning of a fruitful association with the Dallas poetry and arts/literary scenes. O, the first dedicated collection of her work, was published in September 2010.

Lilly has since continued to hone her craft through involvement in a number of literary projects and open mics, including Let It Bleed (where she served as co-editor), the WordSpace Reading Series, Mad Swirl, Poets on X+, and the Lost Art Open Mic, where she worked as an organizer and web designer and also designed print and web promotional flyers for various featured performances, including her own in September 2010. A road trip to San Francisco at the age of nineteen kindled a love affair with California, where she relocated in 2012 and where she currently makes her residence in the San Diego area. Lilly has read from her work at the Train of Open Thought Open Mic and as part of the RAW Artists showcase (both in San Diego), and continues to provide promotional materials as well as book covers and editing services for the family-owned Penhall Publishing.

Lilly currently works from home as a graphic designer and editor. Her first published poetry anthology, co-edited with James “Bear” Rodehaver and entitled Not Dead Yet: An Anthology of Survivor Poetry, was published in 2014. A follow up, The Route of All Evil: Poems About Vices, is currently in the works and is slated for publication in late summer 2015. Lilly has written several television and movie scripts for which she has aspirations of eventual production in Hollywood.

“I feel that poetry is not about competition, but about expression.”

Publications featuring Lilly Penhall:
Forces, Collin County Community College, 2001 (“Swimming Poetess,” “Blues Deity: Leon Russell,” “She Makes [Bad Ass] Margaritas”)
Let It Bleed #1, published July 9, 2010 (“My Aphrodite”)
O, self-published September 2010, re-released July 2012 by Penhall Publishing
Live at Lost Art Open Mic CD, published November 2010 (“Ode to the Orgasm”)
Let It Bleed #2, published January 2011 (“This Black Dress,” “Come Lie With Me,” “On the Train”)
Every Reason #7, published August 2011 (“Ode to the Orgasm Part II,” “Frenemies,” “Come Lie With Me”)
Let It Bleed #3, published October 2011 (“My Mecca,” “Harold Just Thought It Was Another Wednesday”)
Kleft Jaw #1, published May 2013 (“Antares,” “Elongated Shadows”)
Not Dead Yet: An Anthology of Survivor Poetry, (with James Barrett Rodehaver), published 2014 by Penhall Publishing (“Scars”, “Today”)
The Beatest State in the Union: An Anthology of Beat Texas Writers, published October 2015 by Lamar University Press (“Be My Neal Cassady”)