Poetry offers a unique way to express emotions, ideas and experiences through language. It can explore complex themes and ideas in a concise and powerful way while inspiring readers in profound ways. Poetry also has the ability to connect people across cultures and time periods, offering a window into different perspectives and ways of seeing the world.

April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by exploring the rich poetry scene in your local community? Local poetry can offer a unique perspective on the people, history and culture of your area. Fayetteville has a thriving poetry community with several open mics a month and poetry events happening downtown.

The Poetry Community

14aLeJuane “El’Ja” Bowens has been a part of the local arts community since 2007, shortly after leaving the Army. Bowens tells Up & Coming Weekly that he remembers when the poetry community got so huge, there used to be 13 open mics in one week. However, he says that now is a moment of transition due to a resurgence following the shutdowns of 2020.

“Now we’re at a point where there is a resurgence of open mics and that’s because of what happened during the pandemic when a lot of open mics went away and then they came back. But it brought in a lot of new energy because a lot of people started building upon that,” Bowens said.

Bowens is the founder and CEO of Poetry-N-Motion, a local company that specializes in writing workshops, mentoring and event hosting/planning. Their mission is to serve as a change agent to provide an alternative for individuals who are faced with challenging situations where a different outlet can be utilized to decrease and/or diffuse emotional distress. Their target audiences are youth, veterans, community leaders and aspiring artists.

“[The arts are] very important not only for that creative outlet, but most people also look at that as a way of healing and coping with trauma. Because one of my mentors told me, ‘If no one will listen to you, the page will or the art will.’ So when you have that as an outlet to help with so many things, it makes it very important as to why we need [the] arts, not just in this community, but also in every community that we can make that space possible.”

Last month, Bowens published a new book, “Before: A Collection of Poems,” which is semi-autobiographical. The topics range from life, heartbreak, love, joy, pain and a variety of emotions you can go through as a person.

Each poem starts with the word “Before” and then is expanded on in the poem itself. In the first month of its release, he sold over 400 copies.

“I’m very excited that the book has done so, so well,” Bowens said.

Bowens says the community plays a huge role and it’s important for all artists to support one another, especially in our own community.

“Some of the local players or local artists here in the city go on to do big and better things. There’s phenomenal writers that started here in Fayetteville that are now published authors or motivational speakers and just going out there doing and hosting a lot of other events, not only in Fayetteville but outside of the city or the state. I think it’s very important for a community to get behind it because these artists are the future of what happens within any industry form. And it becomes disheartening when we don’t get the community support because we do so much to represent our community,” Bowens said.

“So it’s very important for us to get behind the artists in the community and the poets, while we can support everything they're doing, because everybody still finds it hard to believe that we have a poetry scene here in the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina when it’s been here for going on 24 years.”

Upcoming Poetry Events

TAP on Thursday

Winterbloom Tea, in collaboration with Poetry-N-Motion, are bringing an open mic, free to everyone. This Tea And Performance happens every third Thursday of the month. If you are a poet, comic, songwriter, musician, they encourage you to come out for this awesome event. The next event will take place on May 18 at 7 p.m.
Winterbloom Tea is located at 238 Hay Street. For more information call 910-491-3526.

14cArts in Motion Trolley

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Cool Spring Downtown District invited North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green to Downtown Fayetteville to take part in Arts in Motion on Friday, April 28 at 7 p.m. on their District Trolley.
Green is the ninth Poet Laureate of North Carolina. She is the first African American and third woman to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate and reappointed in 2021 for a second term by Governor Roy Cooper. She is also a 2019 Academy of American Poet Laureate Fellow and has been recognized on the Forbes Magazine 50 Over 50 Lifestyle List for 2022.

“We're excited to have Jackie Shelton Green for the poetry trolley, and we think it's going to be an amazing event. It's probably a once in a lifetime event to actually be able to sit with our North Carolina poet laureate and be able to pick her brain and just understand the wisdom that she has and how she got to this place and how to become better,” Lauren Falls, Director of Marketing and Events for Cool Spring Downtown District, told Up & Coming Weekly.

The trolley will pick people up at the Gaston Taproom located at 421 Chicago Drive. Tickets are $30 and can be bought at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/arts-in-motion-trolley-featuring-nc-poet-laureate-jaki-shelton-green-tickets-605040140347.

14bArt Meets Life

Art Meets Life is a show where not only will you get to see art in motion, but also get to know more about the artists that perform as well.
This show, which will be featuring the Detour Slam, will take place at The Sweet Palette on May 5. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The Sweet Palette is located at 101 Person Street. For information call 910-489-7342.
Fighting Fathers

This special series will consist of three performances featuring Southern spoken word artists whose work explores the intersections of military service, fatherhood, and life as Black men in the American South. The Fighting Fathers will give voice to an intersection of our local community that is often overlooked.

The accompanying free workshops will teach attendees how to use the art of spoken word poetry to tell their own story and engage in a creative experience that gives them a deeper understanding of their own emotional journey. The third and last session will feature Bowens. The last two featured Boris “Bluz” Rogers and Neil Ray Donnell. The performance will take place at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre on May 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Cape Fear Regional Theatre is located at 1209 Hay Street. For information call 910-323-4234.

By engaging with local poetry, you not only support your community's arts scene but also gain a deeper appreciation for the place you call home. So this National Poetry Month, and throughout the year, take some time to explore the poetry in your own backyard.

Editor's note: In the next issue of Up & Coming, read about Fayetteville's own Detour Slam Team, a poetry group competing in the Southern Fried Poetry Competition this year.

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