First Wave Hosts Month-Long Video Poetry Festival

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:
Porsha O
Brandon Melendez
Roya Marsh
Adam Falkner
Jon Sands
Mahogany Browne
Mike Davis
Matthew Cuban
Princess Moon
Franny Choi
Jive Poetic
Terisa Siagatonu
Eve Ewing
Aja Monet
Amanda Torres
Jonathan Mendoza
Ariana Brown
Cameron Awkward Rich
Eloisa Amezcua
Hanif Abdurraqib
José Olivarez
Carvens Lissaint
Hieu Minh
Angel Nafis
Paul Tran
Shira Erlichman
Xandria Phillips
Natasha Oladokun

First Wave Alumni Poets include:
Will Giles
Danez Smith
Jasmine Mans
Karl Iglesias
Leslie Lissaint
Zhalarina Sanders
Gretchen Carvajal <3

Current First Wave Poets include:
Penda Smith
Nile Lansana
Duncan Slagle
Alpha Stokes