Poetry is timeless. It fills volumes upon volumes with sonnets, iambic pentameter, odes and couplets. It provides insight to the unexplainable, commenting on the smallest aspects of humanity. It can be typed, scrawled or sung — but tonight, it’s spoken.
Tonight at 7 p.m.
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Tickets from $5
“I think a lot of people — not myself personally — think of boring old white men reading and writing poems back in the olden days and get turned off by that,” said Peggy Burrows, a 2010 University alum and a member of Ann Arbor Wordworks, a local poetry group.
The concept of poetry is completely different for Burrows.
“It’s spoken word,” she said. “Really beautiful things that you wouldn’t have thought of are brought to the table.”
Wordworks was formed by a group of students who had been involved with the Volume Youth Poetry Project, an after-school program that works with high school students to write poetry and learn poetic technique. Today, Wordworks is composed of 15 members who attend a variety of universities throughout the state and promote poetry through performance and speech.
This Thursday, the group will perform poetry in its biggest event of the year, entitled Homegrown.
“Every year we find a new vein to run through the whole show. This year, it’s sort of the evolution of our writing,” said Ben Alfaro, a junior at Wayne State University. “Some of that will entail poems we wrote when we were really young.
“There are so many strong voices in Ann Arbor Wordworks that in a span of 15 minutes, you’re going to get a set of voices that are powerful on their own,” Alfaro added. “It sort of builds this chord of sound.”
According to Burrows, the performance won’t be what many would expect of a poetry reading.
“You don’t quietly snap when you hear something you like — it’s a very interactive, high-energy performance,” Burrows said. “We try to engage the audience — we have fun pieces, serious pieces and group pieces so you can see we’re a unit, not just individual people.”
Burrows, who started writing when she was a kid, always knew she liked poetry.
“I always wanted to write and be creative … and I sort of latched onto this form,” she said.
At first, it was difficult for Burrows to write her poems without worrying about how the audience would interpret them. She would try to mold her writing to what she thought the audience would like best, but that didn’t work out well.
“I stopped thinking about other people reading it and for me, that made it a lot easier,” Burrows said.
Now she writes for herself, which also has benefits when she performs.
“The audience feels more connected to it when it’s honest and real — it’s very obvious that you feel this and you’re not just saying this to have something to say,” she said.
As the audience will see in Homegrown, Alfaro’s style has evolved as well.
“I used to write more about family and relationship stuff,” Alfaro said. “But now my writing is sort of turning this corner. I’m talking about bigger issues going on around me … I’m sort of trying to give my poems social context.”
He added, “I think it personally grounds it more.”
Apart from school and Wordworks, Alfaro holds a weekly poetry workshop in Detroit for high school students. Based on what he’s observed, Alfaro noted that poetry is changing.
“It’s starting to make this shift towards more of a hip-hop platform or a performance platform,” he said. “That aspect is what more young people want to do.
“Poetry is going to be hard-hitting and powerful — that you have to hear out loud. That’s where it’s going.”