Project Team: Tina Smith, Sarah Herklots, Zach Dickie, Sam Mercer
Rhymthic Cypher is looking to provide slam, performance, writing, D.I.Y. printing, publishing, poetry submission, event planning, booking and promotion workshops for youth. Our goal is to host a local seminar in 2012 to empower voices within our community through artistic expression and connection serves to strengthen the spirit and vitality of our world. We hope to put together a brochure for greater outreach to community centers, schools, juvenile detention centers, substances abuse treatment centers and jails.
How are you making Maine a better place for young people?
The Poet Rising Project helps to make Maine a better place for young people by offering opportunities for them to connect not only to their own words but also to voices through creative face-to-face conversations and performance art collaboration. We offer writing and performance workshops to middle and high schools, colleges and local community centers like the Preble Street Teen Center. Our goal is to expand upon the workshops and further develop and promote poets through publishing, workshop training, event planning, booking and promotion.
For two years we have hosted an avant garde poetry open mic with musical accompaniment every Sunday at Slainte, 24 Preble Street in Portland. Rhythmic Cypher is “Poetry with a Beat,” featuring local, regional and national poets, storytellers, musicians and the occasional travelling circus. We offer weekly writing and performance workshops from 5:30-7:30pm. The show starts at 8:30pm. Rhythmic Cypher is open to the public including 18+ who participate in workshops or feature in the open mic. Rhythmic Cypher provides a weekly opportunity for participants to develop and strengthen their voices as spoken word artists and musicians. We are accompanied by different local and often touring musicians every week with regulars: Robin Jellis the Cellist, Matt Baker on mandolin, Roy MacNeil on violin and Darrell Foster, Folk Rock Star. The only rule of the open mic is that you must do your thing (poem, song, story, dance, circus act, etc….) with the accompaniment of our featured musician. This makes our stage a canvass for the improvisational collaboration of performers to create a live piece of art cooperatively.
During the show we invite audience participation in writing a group piece. This anonymous collaboration provides an opportunity for all in attendance to become part of the show. At the closing of each evening the piece is read which often serves as a catalyst to welcome those who do not consider themselves “writers” into the writing process. It is our experience that this kind of audience participation encourages community building and also coaxes traditional “watchers” to become a more active part of the community. The anonymity of this writing also allows for the chance to experience expression without the worry of judgment…. something we feel is crucial for young people today.
What challenges in your community are you addressing?
In 2012, we find social networks in virtual reality. We communicate far more through text messages than over the phone conversations, let alone face-to-face interactions. Our lost body language has been watered down to emoticons and, FYI, we speak (or rather type), in computer slang acronyms like BRB…LOL…WTF…FML. In the guise of connecting us to the world, technology has actually disconnected us from language, real communication and true community connection. The Poet Rising Project seeks to address the dehumanization of language by reconnecting people to words, written with pens on paper, spoken with mouths and vocal chords, asserted with body gestures and facial expressions and heard by the ears of community members, friends and family.
Who will benefit from your idea? How will people access and learn about the work you are doing?
Those who will directly benefit are those who participate in our workshops or open mics, particularly the youth. Indirectly the entire community benefits since we offer a creative outlet and a positive direction for youth and adults to creatively express and air their struggles, find community support and personal validation. Poet Rising workshops and open mics are also a great place to develop communication skills and get over stage fright while having fun. We advertise our shows and workshops via many mediums including an active facebook page and wordpress blog. These popular mediums allow accessibility to a forum that is a safe place for youth voices. Our blog is also a place where we can post writing prompts and serve as a public sharing board for the young people we meet in schools and in the community.
What major success would you like to see at the end or apex of your project?
We would like to see and increase of poetry moving off the page and onto the stage. Instead of being tucked into a drawer or bookshelf, we hope to inspire writers to bring their words and art into the public. We would like to see social interactions move back into the realm of the personal, and for people to externalize their personal experiences through interactions with community instead of sharing into a nebulous cyberspace. We would like to see the dying art of spoken word revived and revitalized through the support of the community. One additional major success we’d like to see is for poets to be paid for their work. Too often writing is seen as merely a hobby. We would like to see more grant funding being put into place for poetry performance, publishing and educational resources.
Project Partners: Ian Farnsworth, Owner of Slainte