Stages are dark, but UW-Madison’s First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts program is bringing poets from across the country together to celebrate National Poetry Month on the virtual stage. Everyday, more than 25 poets are posting performances on Instagram@omaifirstwave.
The venue shift and expansion of participants was spurred by the cancellation of the Annual Line Breaks Festival, which had been scheduled to begin on April 3. First Wave changed the channel to its Digital Series virtual performance web site.
“It’s our first response and answer to what’s going on,” said Gretchen Carvajal referring to the social distancing required to slow the spread of COVID-19. Participants including First Wave Scholars, First Wave alumni, practicing and professional poets produce pre-record performances to create a daily addition to the celebration. The virtual series serves performance needs while sharing an artform that is intended to be shared, bring joy and offer reflection.
“A lot of the reason that we’re doig this is for the students, as well as the poetry community because there’ve been cancellation of performances, gigs and book tours everywhere,” Carvajal said. Nothing can completely replace the interaction between a live poets and audiences, but virtual performance is a familiar platform, she added. It also became a learning opportunity for everyone involved; all were equipped with basic lighting kits and instruction on how to record and submit videos from home.
“It’s how we engage with our students, it’s how we interact with our alumni, and it’s our way to help the artistic community,” she said. The virual venue is vibrant, interactive through Instagram and accessible to audiences including closed captioning. The performances are available whenever they’re needed to view and are archived by the Instagram feed.
Among the artists contributing the celebration are:
Cameron Awkward Rich
First Wave Alumni Poets include:
Gretchen Carvajal <3
Current First Wave Poets include: