By Cornelius A. Fortune
Love, sex, politics, music and self-expression will share a mutual stage during EchoVerse Poetry & Slam: “The Rebirth,” Nov. 7-8, at Broadway Theater (across the street from the Detroit Opera House), starting at 9 p.m. The series will continue every Friday and Saturday, ending at midnight.
Host Johnny Jenkins Jr. and co-producer Andre Royster wanted to continue the same quality of poetry that had been offered for the past three years at such venues as the Meetery Eatery Cafe and the Java Exchange Cafe, but in a larger space.
It was important to them that EchoVerse expand its boundaries and Broadway Theater provided the expansion they needed.
“The series has been going so well and we’ve got so much support from the spoken-word community,” Jenkins says. “We celebrate all forms of expressions. Our poetry series has been a space where creative folks can be inspired and share. In creating that type of forum, I think we’ve created something special. Whether it’s gay poetry, straight poetry, we celebrate it all, and it’s been working.”
He sees poetry as a bridge to different expressions that can be translated and understood by a variety of people.
“I have a lot of content in my pieces that’s very gay,” Jenkins says. “My relationships and my pieces about love (just) happen to be about my love for men. I can also write in a way that my audience can put themselves in the situation. I think a lot of LGBT poets like being able to be honest and truthful; straight people are intrigued by it. It’s good for building bridges. I’m hopeful that it inspires conversation.”
Some upcoming events include the urban erotic poetry festival, “Passion Fruit” (Feb. 13-14), “Battle of the Sexes” and the “EchoVerse Final Stage Slam Competition.”
Detroit, according to Jenkins, has a very distinctive poetry flavor.
“We’re hopeful we might be able to broaden our audience to introduce more people to poetry – specifically Detroit poetry – and hopefully to get them to fall in love with it,” Jenkins says. “The subject matter is very hardcore. There’s always a lot of passion and it’s always gritty – it’s like the city of Detroit: it’s honest with a bite, with an edge. That’s not something you get from L.A. or Chicago. You don’t question anything that comes from a Detroit voice.”
Poets are encouraged to write on the theme of “rebirth” as it relates to Detroit, either from the standpoint of Detroit being on the verge of a rebirth, or lacking one; they can also choose their own topic. Really, the only limit is the poet’s own imagination.
“Since I’m producing, I’m tapped into regional and national poets,” he says. “It’s like a big reunion of poets: there’s gay poets; there’s straight poets; we’re all there with that competitive instinct. It’s very friendly and the energy is warm. It’s quirky. There’s never a dull moment. People in Detroit are really starting to gravitate to it.”
He’s hopeful the new location will bring more traffic and interest to the shows. And not only are poets welcome, musicians, singers, performance and visual artists are encouraged to participate in the experience as well.
“It’s a welcoming, affirming environment that’s full of creative expression, which will range from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Jenkins says. “You’re going to get polished poets, novice poets, (and) virgin poets who are going to use this as an opportunity to put themselves out there. It will be inspiring.”
9 p.m. Nov. 7-8
Broadway Theater, Detroit