On April 7, 2019, Read Poetry and Bowery Poetry Club of New York City, collaborated to create a live poetry experience: These Are Our Words. In partnership with Belletrist, Obvious State and Copper Canyon Press, this full day dedicated to spoken word performances celebrated the power of poetry and community.
The Five Borough NYC poetry showcase followed, featuring bold and daring performances by Thomas Fucaloro, Sergio Satelite, and Taylor Steele. These powerhouses spoke of death, race, and the complexities of modern life.
Darian Dauchan and Jessica Semaan brought music to their performances. Dauchan used a synthesizer to weave his poetry into song. Semaan’s performance was moving and radiant as she shared the experiences that inspired each of the poems she read, from her debut collection, Child of the Moon. With conversation on displacement, grief, trauma, and belonging, Semaan filled the room with hope and her smooth, steady voice.
A panel followed, featuring Karah Preiss of Belletrist interviewing Deborah Landau. Landau read from her new collection, Soft Targets, which explores the vulnerability of the body, as well as living with fear and anxiety in a time of terrorist attacks, acts of violence and war.
These Are Our Words is an example of why we need poetry as a society. Poetry can create such a strong and united community, a group of writers who seek to be heard, to be understood, to share the truest and most vulnerable parts of themselves.
During our interviews with Karah Preiss, Emmy Marucci, Jessica Semaan, Deborah Landau and Alison Malee, we asked why spoken word is so important to the poetry community. Connection and vulnerability was a common thread among their answers. “I don’t think you can really feel someone until you hear them say their words out loud,” said Marucci. “It’s one thing to read something on a page, but when it hear it from someone, their diction and their energy around, it might make you feel differently.” Deborah Landau mentions the musicality one can only hear when hearing spoken word. “Poems are meant to be read out loud. What’s important to me is the music, the rhythm, the way a poem sings – and you can really bring that out when you are reading it in a room full of people.”
It was evident that between the reaction in the room during the entire event and the collective voices that filled the day, spoken word is important to the poetry community, to keep our stories and words alive. “Go to where you are scared to go”, says Jessica Semaan, “And that’s where the poetry is.”
Photo credit: Heath Antonio