by Christian Wills, Arts Journalist-in-Residence
In late April, Brevity Bookspace, Delaware Shakespeare, University of Delaware, and Wilmington Alliance teamed up to create a poetry event for the modern ages, entitled Write Outside Your Window. The premise: create a poem in 30 words or less that captures what you would say to Wilmington residents at this moment in time. Saliym Cooper, the head and founder of Brevity Bookspace, helped in orchestrating the event at large by setting up tables, signs, posters, and materials for people to write and submit their poems. Members of Delaware Shakespeare had shared their support by performing their own works of poetry and encouraging others to do the same.
The event took place at the new 7th and West Community Park location, the sister space across from The Rock Lot on 8th Street. Being outdoors, bystanders and on goers were encouraged to stay at the local park, partake in the festivities, and mingle with each other (masks on of course). As people spaced out, danced to music and drafted poems, you could feel the warm embrace of the community within the atmosphere. City-dwellers and patio onlookers were seen enjoying the festivities from near and far. The showcase, being the first of many events in the city this year, was greatly appreciated by all who came.
Community and Environment
While the park seemed rather empty at times, there was a local response from people in and around the neighborhood of West Side Wilmington. Members of the Urban Bike Project showed up on the scene with their bikes and gear. Downtown Vision officers watched from the streets to see people perform while nodding their heads to music from multiple generations. Local community members, neighborhood watchers, and civilians living on the West Side came out in short bursts to applaud and listen to those who participated. Small children and adults alike took advantage of the 30-word poetry prompt, performing their selections of words one by one within the middle of the park.
There were minor criticisms that persisted throughout the organized event. Few onlookers that were distant from the local crowd carried out their passion to heckle participants through loud swears or outbursts. Residents living across the street caused commotion and competition in the level of noise, often creating unspoken tension with poets looking to perform or enjoy the platform. It often became a battle between those speaking on microphones and city residents harboring their voices into the street and public park. Even with these minor problems, many were able to speak their truth from the small poems, despite the disrespect from the everyday ambience of the city.
On stage performances differed from person to person, all unique to their own truth and personal worldview. As an artist myself, I saw how many of the performers were influenced by people they know, places they’ve seen, and experiences they’ve endured, all in relation to the city itself. Talking to some of the organizers, I was able to get insight on their favorite songs, artists, and poems that inspired their creative nature. I could understand why some of the performers started singing songs or reciting other poems outside of the 30-word limitations.
After watching a few of the performers showcase their works, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I dedicated my poem to a small section of Wilmington that could be found on 8th and Market. I referenced people who would walk past this area or would stay around to “eat ice cream” around friends. This 30-word poem reminded me of the simple joys of traveling through town. Afterwards, I performed a poem entitled “to the notebook kid” by Eve L. Ewing, the poem that kick-started my love for poetry as a teenager. Others took the opportunity to share their favorite poems, as members of Del Shakes had prepared works from various poets of the past.
These performances, when seen first-hand, allowed us to connect with each other and create dynamic relationships with friends old and new. Towards the end of the event, I was moved to perform a poem I had written a day earlier about gun violence. Other performers and bystanders commented on how passionate they felt or how they reacted to the language I used. In those moments, I could see these connections form within my own mind, and ultimately, why these performances mattered for so many.
My Final Thoughts
Coming into the new year, it’s refreshing to experience a poetry event outside of an online platform. Given the circumstances and the state of the world, I was impressed to see Delawareans show their faces and gather as a congregation. The remarkable response from poetry novices and experts, as well as those new to poetry altogether, astounded my preconceived notions that day. Clearly, there is still a need and want for people to showcase their writing skills on a more tangible level; proven only by the number of poems written and performed that day.
Write Outside Your Window was the beginning of something special for Wilmington this year. As concerts and small gatherings continue to pop up in the small city, this workshop-open mic hybrid managed to accomplish something different. In the eyes of small children, bystanders, and aficionados of poetry, I saw a shared sense of happiness and joy to be outside again. No matter the skill or level of talent, everyone had something to share, either about themselves or the city of Wilmington. Being one of the first events for people to attend outside of their homes, this one was definitely a great way to start things off.