From radio theater to slam poetry, attendees of the Fourth Street Festival of Arts and Crafts can hear spoken word performances Saturday and Sunday when the Writer’s Guild of Bloomington presents its seventh annual Spoken Word stage. The performance runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, and incorporates not only poetry, but fiction, storytelling, theater performances and more.
Professional poet Adam Henze said there’s always something going on at the stage.
“You’ll have someone who’s reading their memoir one second, a band the next second, and in the next set someone who’s doing funny songs and silly poetry for kids,” Henze said. “You’re going to see something different every single set.”
Groups such as the Mary Mac Players are performing children’s plays, while others, such as the Fig Tree Radio Players, will perform a classic 1930s radio version of “Frankenstein.” Poets from Bloomington High School South and the winners of Pridefest’s Prideslam will read their work as well.
For Tony Brewer, executive director of the Spoken Word Stage and chair of the Writer’s Guild of Bloomington, the Spoken Word Stage’s biggest change over time has been expanding into other forms of the art.
“I’m always looking to network and expand the scope of what the guild does,” Brewer said. “I’m always trying to keep things diverse.”
A group called New Leaf, New Life will read poems written by inmates of the Monroe County Jail. A poetry band called Shakespeare’s Monkey will perform Saturday evening as well.
This expansion has enabled more collaboration between different social groups, Benze said.
“We get a lot of people who aren’t really sure what we’re doing, and for me that’s the coolest poetry set,” Benze said. “To engage people who are just passing by. Very guerilla art.”
The Writer’s Guild of Bloomington is also presenting its Poetry on Demand tent at the festival. Volunteer poets set up a collection of old typewriters and write poems of a specific theme requested by the person.
“Some people will go over and say, ‘Hey, I’d like you to write a poem about my mom, here’s what she looked like, here’s some things we used to do,’” Henze said. “We’ll ask them to go check out some art, and we write them a poem on the spot, type it up on the typewriter.”
Last year, the Poetry on Demand tent wrote over 150 poems during the Fourth Street Festival. Requested poems topics covered anniversaries, love, death and addiction, Brewer said.
“You can make people really happy,” Brewer said. “You can make people cry, too – tears of joy or tears of relief.”
The Writer’s Guild of Bloomington had a Poetry on Demand tent at the Lotus Blossoms Bazaar earlier this summer, where they worked with fourth graders to discuss how typewriters worked. They will do the same demonstrations at the Fourth Street Festival as well.
“The sound attracts people initially,” Brewer said. “We’re constantly doing demonstrations throughout the day. It’s almost like a parlor trick. ‘Watch me write a poem in ten minutes.’”
Both the Poetry on Demand tent and Spoken Word Stage will run the entire length of the Fourth Street Festival. For Henze, its a place where minds can come together and share a dialogue.
“You’re a little more focused, using a different part of your brain, giving your arms and legs a rest, waking up your mind,” Brewer said. “We’re also conveniently located next to the water station."