Tales from my Earth Day 2015 Spoken Word Tour

This year’s National Poetry Month (April 2015) and Earth Day has made this my most productive and active month as a spoken word artist.

April is a great month for poets and performers of poetry, especially if you’re actively looking for gigs and looking for opportunities to share your poetry with craving crowds who are either expecting your message, or new to the art form of spoken word.

On Earth Day I went to Madison, WI and shared my environmental justice focused poems “The Return of Earth/She” and one of my latest pieces “Poetry that Protects the Environment.” At Hawthorne Elementary School and Fran Allis Elementary School in Madison, WI I was introduced to captive crowds of fifth grade students who were anticipating my poetry. I had never visited two schools on the same day, let alone two schools in the creative and conscious haven that Madison, WI is.

Earth Day was a great day to share with the students about my environmental justice experience, and for me to share what environmental justice is. Since students are not taught what those things are, it was indeed an educational opportunity. They did not know what those terms meant at Frank Allis Elementary School, but when a teacher asked them did they know what global warming is, most of them threw their hands up. I can imagine them sitting at home with their parents watching the national news and hearing the latest news on global warming and how it’s effecting our planet. It’s important for the future people of this planet to know what’s going on.

At both schools examples were shared about some of the local efforts that they knew of in regards to environmental stewardship. It was great to hear about those actions from the students. They are paying attention to what’s going on and participating in some of those efforts.

They listened intensely to each poem. They had lots of questions as I finished each poem as well. They asked me some great questions. We discussed elements of both poems. It was identified that “The Return of Earth/She” is a metaphorical poem. That I crafted that poem and gave it the essence of a woman. Personifying the earth with a feminine existence. This was an epiphany for me: I hadn’t looked at that particular poem that way. But thinking about it, to give the earth feelings, makes it a more effective poem that youth and adults can relate to. Here is a video version of that poem: 

.

Poetry that Protects the Environment is more direct, not metaphorical piece like “The Return of Earth/She.”

I ended my day at Hawthorne Elementary School with a lot of positive energy with much to look forward to and to appreciate and be thankful for! It’s always an honor to speak with youth and have their attention like I had. It’s always a heart-warming experience. I even signed autographs for the students who were eager to receive them. They will attach my name to an experience the had on Earth Day 2015, which is a very special thing.

I got back home to Rockford after 5 PM that day and went to a live concert that honored and remembered Pete Seeger, and served as fundraiser for JustGoods for their music license. The place was packed with those who definitely remember Pete Seeger’s songs and what he stood for. I settled in, was greeted warmly by people I know and respect from the community, and performed those same pieces with adults this time.

David Stocker, my friend a local musician, backed my poetry with drumming from a djembe drum. It gave my performance an element that didn’t exist in Madison. Combining music and spoken word is one of my favorite things to do. David’s percussive excellence inspired me to recite “The Return of Earth/She” with a rhythm and pace I hadn’t recited it in before. My performances were well-received that night at JustGoods.

Those are my tales, what a magical Earth Day!

The Art of Performance Poetry with A Lively Writer’s Group

Performing spoken word poetry.

Performing spoken word poetry.

Yesterday morning, after an early and fairly quiet drive to Winnetka, Illinois, I went to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop to be featured with a discussion focused on my ” The Seven Elements of Performance Poetry.” The group was very lively, and interested in what I had to share and to say about my techniques as a seasoned spoken word poet.

I put together a defined workshop that spoke to each element – available as a Word document if you’re interested in viewing it. I was concerned about not having enough material to carry me through, but that quickly vanished when the lively group of seasoned writers and literary enthusiasts began asking me questions about my knowledge of performance poetry and/or Slam poetry.

The questions carried us through most of the first half of our electric conversation. I am glad that I have been performing as long as I have, and was prepared with a memory of what it takes to be a performance poet. The questions they asked kept me on my toes!

I learned of the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop through a local poet’s husband during a conversation we had at an event where his visual art was on display, and where her and my poetry was featured in a live reading in downtown Rockford. I remembered the name of the group and went home and found their website. I reached out to them expressing my interest in being a presenter. I shared what I could present and it was accepted.

The Seven Elements of Performance Poetry is my go to workshop for highlighting my tactics as a spoken word poet on stage. It consists of pieces of knowledge and information that I feel will help any poet seeking to become a performance poet – which, as I explained to the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop group, is taking written poetry to the stage.

The group consisted mostly of women who listened intensely and made sure they asked the right questions. Performance poetry is not simple, and I believe only the brave poets want to take their writing to the level of performing and reciting it.

I have been performing since the late 90s as a spoken word artist. My early start was in Memphis, TN at the former Sidewalk University in midtown Memphis. I remember that first experience like it was yesterday. Going to an open mike to share my poetry live was something I had never done. It was a new genre for me. Although I had performed as a budding rapper at my elementary school in the mid 80s, there was something different about reciting poetry to a group of people I didn’t know. Later on, after learning about the weekly open mike at the former Precious Cargo in downtown Memphis, I become hooked and haven’t looked back since.

Years later, here I am in Winnetka, Illinois at the Off Campus Writers’ Workshop sharing what I have learned all of these years. I have come full circle as a spoken word poet. I am glad I had the opportunity to showcase that there with that lively and kindred group of writers and literary enthusiasts!

I hope to get back there some time, even if it is just to listen to them and learn about what they are doing with their writing. Happy National Poetry Month! May the muse be with you!