Honoring the voice. Listen and be heard

Tribe Poetry Project is about pens, paper and people getting together to write, read, listen and be heard.

Telling and listening to stories is timeless and essential to being human. At one time we sat together in a circle around the fire to talk and listen. Now we read books, see plays and musicals and go to the movie theater to have stories told to us. Being read to as a child is an essential part of growing up. But how often do we tell our own story? How many people think their story is worthy of telling?

Writing, whether it’s about your life, a fictional short story or poem, is about letting inspiration take you on a journey. With an open mind and an open heart we will wind up in unexpected places when we follow the narrative where it wants to take us. Straightforward or surreal, dead serious or hilarious, or all of that at the same time, writing can be about anything. Small seemingly mundane experiences can often bear the greatest fruit when we allow for the unexpected and give the moment of writing our full attention.

Writing is usually a solitary occurrence, but spoken word is a communal experience. Both are necessary. We all need to feel connected, but listening to, reading and watching other people tell their stories is only part of it. We also need to be heard. When we’re no longer mere observers and honor ourselves enough to read or recite our stories and poetry to an audience the circle of connection is completed and a feeling of isolation becomes impossible.

For all our technology and mediums of connection these days there also seems to be a pervasive sense of disconnect. Through the Workshop, I want to help young people find their voices by honoring and sharing their stories. To dispel the myths about writing and spoken word as being something only for a select, talented few. To displace feelings of isolation and create genuine connection through the timeless arts of writing, storytelling and poetry.

I’ve done classes with refugee and immigrant teens and adults, at-risk youth and people in recovery and I’ve seen the power of poetry to open people up, move through difficult emotions and discover new truths about themselves. 

Tribe is the worlds oldest word for community and the poetry reading harkens back to the tribal circle where everyone has a say.  I believe a poem just isn’t finished until it’s read to the crowd. I learned the power of listening and of being heard from so many over the years at the poetry reading and it’s a gift I want to give back wherever and to whoever I can.

Mike Nelson, founder of Tribe Poetry Project