Coastal Virginia is rich with as vibrant and diverse a poetry scene as you could hope to find anywhere in the country. There are “slams” and poetry salons and open mics galore. Virginia’s Poet Laureate, Tim Seibles, teaches at Old Dominion University. The president of the Poetry Society of Virginia, Virginia Beach resident Robert Arthur, manages San Francisco Bay Press, which primarily publishes poetry. And last year a senior from Tallwood High School, Ahkei Togun, won the national “Poetry Out Loud” competition, taking home a prize of $20,000.
But few poets get into it for the money. Newport News resident Ann Shalaski got into poetry to connect with like-minded individuals. Williamsburg resident Henry Hart was dazzled by the artful arrangement of words. Suffolk resident Nathan Richardson uses poetry as a means of dialogue and to explore controversial issues. And Norfolk resident Luisa Igloria uses poetry to stay connected with her cultural heritage.
For more on these masters of rhythm, gaze upon these stars glimmering in our poetic sky:
A Professor of English and Humanities at William & Mary, Henry Hart has published four collections of poetry receiving both critical acclaim and recognition with awards. He's also devoted much of his life to the study of the great poets of the literary world, authoring biographies on Geoffrey Hill, Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, James Dickey and Robert Frost.
Nathan Richardson is a "spoken word" artist, reciting poems from his memory with heart and flair. When he's not reciting his own poetry, he's traveling to venues throughout the East Coast to perform as Frederick Douglass, taking on his persona as the historic former slave, abolitionist, poet and orator.
A Norfolk native but born and raised in the Philippines, Luisa Igloria has felt a deep connection with the environment since she was a child. Her poetry style is composed with magical realism, which led her to win a 2015 inaugural Resurgence Poetry Prize, the world's first major eco-poetry award.
Ann Shalaski is an empress of spoken word and long-time host of the "Word-4-Word" open mic night poetry readings at Aromas Café in Newport News. Her poems range from being hysterically comical and sultry to stunningly serious, engaging other audience members with her poems and also encouraging them to share their own.
Places For Poets:
For anyone interested in improving their poetic craft, The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk offers regular poetry classes for all skill levels and the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Annual Poetry Festival will be held May 27 at the James City County Library.
Here also are a few of the open mic venues abound throughout Coastal Virginia. For weekly updated info, check out Talya Chatman’s “Good Word” blog:
-Every Monday at 7 p.m.: Open Mic at The Venue on 35th, Norfolk ($3 cover)
-Second Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m.: Word-4-Word Open Mic at Aromas Café, City Center, Newport News
-Every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.: Spoken Word Wednesdays at Spades Lounge, Virginia Beach (Free entry with purchase of beverage)
-Second Thursday at 6:30 p.m.: Art + Words Open Mic at Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News
-Third Friday at 7 p.m.: Poetry Open Mic at Hampton Performing & Creative Arts Center
-Fourth Friday at 8 p.m.: Poetry Salon, 2931 Somme Ave., Norfolk (a place to read and receive critiques)
-First Saturday at 11 a.m.: Saturday Poetry Series, Stryker Building, Williamsburg