“What I’m Working On: Poems”
Yo, I’m writing a dissertation (analyzing data from a national interview-based study on whether, why, and how LGBTQ-identified writing professors “come out of the closet” or “pass” as straight/cisgender in their classrooms), teaching online (ENGL 102–my students rock more than I do, which is saying something, if I do say so myself), teaching at Marian University, Indianapolis (I direct new media writing studies for their Communication Department), and Coaching Marian’s Speech and Debate Team (JUST became Indiana’s 2018 State Champion Runners Up)… But I don’t really want to talk about that (bc too often we talk about what we’re doing for Academé). What I do really want to talk about is a recurring, Indianapolis-based poetry performance show in Indy that I’m co-producing called Poetry on the Fringe. Y’all it’s so cool:
Poetry on the Fringe brings performance poetry and theatre arts into concert with one another. Every other Sunday at 7 p.m., we drop jaws with a 20-minute open mic for emerging artists, followed by a never-before-seen theatrical production, and finally a NPS-certified poetry slam competition ($60 to the champ–with a grand slam prize at the end of our season somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 bones).
My co-producers Gabrielle Patterson, Sylvia Thomas, and I are all poets, writers, and performers in Indianapolis. Gabby is a national poetry slam champion and playwright; well-versed in performance poetry and theatre, poetry is in her blood. Sylvia is a local poet with international recognition; she cares about people finding empowerment in their story and their art. As a team of producers, we each strive to bring performance poetry and theatre arts to the hearts of Indy.
We believe that poetry is magic and performance is healing. We each plug into the community from different outlets in order to reach out to our communities, discover emerging artists, honor legendary performers, celebrate diverse voices, and engage our audiences by welcoming them into our storytelling performances that bridge poetry and theatre. And we wish to divide our rewards equitably amongst ourselves, ultimately folding them back into the community.
We’ve designed the limited open mic to bring diverse voices to our poetry scene and to invite new artists to share. Our open mic, free for all, is safe, inclusive, invitational, supportive: a space to take your first steps as a poet.
The theatrical production samples a kaleidoscope of performers (including, sometimes, our own audiences) from drag queens to actors to musicians to comedians–storytellers of all kind. We invite our youth, our elders, our queers, our students, our teachers, our veterans–our voices of all colors, histories, shapes, sizes, and abilities–to perform with us.
The slam is the only certified venue in Indianapolis where poets can compete for substantial prize money every other week and vie for membership on a team that we hope will compete both regionally and nationally. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the cred. We’ve got it all. We just need YOU.
Michael Baumann is a doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville’s Department of English. He’s also a college professor, book editor, speech coach, and performance poet.