Wordsmiths provides platform to develop poets’ voices

On Sept. 28, Wordsmiths and Verse hosted an open mic poetry night. Wordsmiths is a spoken word poetry group that meets every Monday night in various locations on campus. / Courtesy of Jordan Pollack via Facebook

This past week, on Friday, Sept. 28, Vassar College’s spoken word poetry group Word- smiths put on the first of many open mic poetry nights in Rocky 300.

While the group promises to hold one open mic event each month, they’re also known for hosting slam poetry competitions and bringing wonderful speakers to Vassar in cooperation with other students orgs.

The Frist event of the year is big for any org, and this open mic night was no exception to this unwritten rule for Wordsmiths.

Upon being interviewed it would seem that every- one ranging from Wordsmiths’ president to its general body members has high hopes for the rest of the year as they continue to provide a space for poets and aspiring writers alike.

The Miscellany News: How did you first hear about this group and what is your current role on Wordsmiths?

Helen Magowan ’20: I found out about Wordsmiths at the activities fair last year, and am on exec now…I’m pretty sure I’m down as president, whatever that means to the VSA, but it’s a non-hierarchical/open executive board.

Emmett Weiss ’18: I heard about Wordsmiths my freshman year, joined the exec board last year (I dropped it this year because of other commitments), and now am a general body member. I also perform at Wordsmiths’ open mics.

Max Wagh ’20: Well, I first found out about Wordsmiths because my stufel, Vanessa Rosensweet, was a member! She talked about it a little bit during orientation week, and I got more info by signing up for the email list at the activities fair. Even though I got the emails all year, I didn’t actually get involved in Wordsmiths until halfway through spring semester! And even after all that, I didn’t share any of my poems to the group until one of the last meetings.

Currently, my official role in the org is treasurer. However, because we’re non-hierarchical, I mostly just hold the PCard and buy things when we need them. All of exec (which is open to everyone) helps to organize our events and to make decisions as a collective!

The Misc: Could you describe your impressions of this past Friday’s open mic event and your involvement with it?

Magowan: We’re going to be having monthly open mics this year (the last Thursday of every month, hopefully!!), so our event last week was the first of those. (It was co-hosted, by the way, as are all of our events, with Verse, our sister org which is an affinity space for poets of color.) Open mics are pretty self-explanatory, there’s an open sign-up list when you get there and a microphone, and anyone can read/perform if they have anything they’d like to share. It’s just a way for students to gain more confidence and comfort sharing in front of crowds, and for them and their art to gain visibility on campus. None of our events are exclusive to Wordsmiths members, people who actively attend GB, etc.

Weiss: Last week, I performed a poem. One poem I particularly liked was one of Helen’s. Helen is so talented. I always look forward to hearing Helen’s poems at open mic nights!

Wagh: is past week we hosted our first monthly open mic, where any student (regardless of involvement) could come to perform their work, be it poetry or short prose! We bought pizza and some snacks and some cider, and then the floor was opened up. I helped to pick the time and date, as well as what food we were going to have. On top of that, I also performed some of my work (a piece that I’ve been workshopping for a year—one that I think everyone who attends meetings regularly has heard way too many times).

The Misc: What about this new year with the Wordsmiths excites you?

Magowan: I am SO excited this year about the new members of Wordsmiths. Obviously all our returning members are incredible people and very dear to my heart as well, but I am truly just stunned by the amount of talent and passion I’ve seen amongst the first-years who’ve been coming to meetings. I so admire their willingness to engage with each others’ work, and their vulnerability in sharing their own poetry. I’m really looking forward to getting to know all the members of Wordsmiths better personally, and being able to spend time with them outside of our org meetings and events.

Weiss: Wordsmiths inspires me to continue writing, and I’m excited to attend their speaker events, writing workshops and performances.

Wagh: I’m super excited about all the new faces attending meetings, from first-years to seniors who are finally able to make it. Also, I’m looking forward to all the events we’re planning. Currently, we’re working on bringing some fantastic poets (I can’t say more) to come give talks and run some workshops. Along with that, we’re planning on having regular workshops for students (some with themes, some as affinity spaces), as well as monthly open mics. So if you missed Septem- ber’s open mic and you’ve got a poem you’re burning to share, stay tuned for our next one this month!

The Misc: Are you hoping to make any changes with the group?

Magowan: I think that the social factor is something that was missing from my experience in the org last year. I think poetry spaces tend to draw like people, or at least they have in my experience, and it’s so obvious to see at our meetings that we really enjoy each other’s company, and grow from exposure to how others in the group see and interact with the world. I think that’s something we should do more to celebrate and act on. I would absolutely love to make Wordsmiths a bigger part of my life and a part of my life that extended beyond our Monday meetings.

If anyone wishes to get involved with Wordsmiths, they can email Helen Magowan at hmagowan@vassar.edu. Additionally, Wordsmiths holds weekly meetings in various locations around campus on Monday nights at 8:30 pm. Members of all different experiences are welcome to attend a Wordsmiths meeting.

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