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Word Up

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Everyone has a story. No matter what kind of background, religion or even race one comes from; those who want to share their story should be heard. Poetry has existed for thousands of years and has shaped generations of people. And for Caroline Rothstein, Rae Karim, Aminah Dzananovic, Mathew Davis, Dania Noghnogh and the Rev. Callie Smith, their passion for poetry liberates them to tell their stories, to be heard, and to be remembered.

Matt Davis says performance art has always been the medium that helps him speak to the realities everyone faces. - COURTESY OF MATHEW DAVIS
  • Courtesy of Mathew Davis
  • Matt Davis says performance art has always been the medium that helps him speak to the realities everyone faces.

Through the Desmond Tutu Center’s, Outspoken and Out Open: A Night of Spoken Words and Poetry, the Indianapolis community is invited to hear these diverse spoken word artists' work and to connect with them on a personal level.

Their poetry provides a creative and powerful way to tell a story through a variety of styles such as rhyme, repetition and even a bit of dance, to spice it up a tad.

“Pain always pushes us forward, a web of hope, fear, pain, confronting our problems in its ugliest honesty,” says 23-year-old Mathew Davis. He's been interested in poetry ever since he was 16 years old. For him, poetry was a way to speak his mind and for others to relate to him. “I feel like people can connect with me because I’m trying to speak what they feel,” says Davis. He believes that art allows one to truly express oneself. Art is universal and is extremely broad, but for Davis, he says that poetry especially speaks on a whole different level because words literally communicate to people.

His success in writing poetry has led Davis to host open mics for performing arts in the streets of Indianapolis. And his recognizable talent has now led him to speak as one of the artists for Outspoken and Out Open where he will address the topic of conflict and peace.

Rev. Callie Smith received a bachelors in English literature before receiving her Masters of Divinity. - COURTESY OF REV. CALLIE SMITH
  • Courtesy of Rev. Callie Smith
  • Rev. Callie Smith received a bachelors in English literature before receiving her Masters of Divinity.

Callie Smith has always loved literature and telling stories. As a child she was regularly involved in church some way or another. Eventually she says she got her calling from God. Smith is a reverend. “I sometimes get weird looks when I tell people that I am a clergyperson,” says Smith. “Not all Christian communities have female clergy; not all Christian communities have women preach or hold leadership.” For Smith, her passion with poetry came before her position in the church, but it is through poetry that she can tell her unique story, shaping her confidence in a male-dominated space. In her spoken word presentation, she will credit those that inspire her and those she views as heroes through prose poem style. “It is an honor to be involved,” says Smith. She believes Sunday's event is an ideal forum for addressing diversity, which she says is very much needed in this community. “The more the city can do to bring diverse people together through the arts, the better.”

With this spoken word tool, those within the city can join and immerse themselves in a one-hour production where they will have the chance to meet people that they would have never met before. This exceptional program supports the mission of the Desmond Tutu Center and the theme of the 2015 Butler ArtsFest: Outlaws and Outsiders. “We wanted to do a program that gives a platform, is interesting, and thought-provoking,” says Ann Ehinger, the program coordinator at the Desmond Tutu Center.

Outspoken and Out Open will be performed at Butler University in the Schrott Center tomorrow evening (April 19). Admission is free and you can register online.

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