By Matt Bennett
A finalist at the Individual World Poetry Slam appears in the lone spotlight of an otherwise pitch-black stage. She looks out at the sea of eyes staring right back at her and says into the microphone, “One Side of an On-Going Dialogue with Sharon, my Therapist.” The crowd erupts and the poet begins reciting with moving conviction, her incredibly powerful poem. Meet internationally revered spoken-word artist and the host of this fall’s revitalized Baton Rouge poetry workshop series The Verse Lab, Desireé Dallagiacomo.
Calling all poets! Whether you perform every Tuesday night at the Eclectic Truth poetry slam or prefer the confines of the pages in your notebook, The Verse Lab welcomes all. For ten weeks, writers will craft their own unique poems, practice spoken-word techniques, study the works of poets from all across the spectrum, and, to simply put it, grow together as a group of artists.
“We do some writing together, and then we mostly give feedback, and mostly have conversation about the writing and cultivate a space to where folks can take that out of the workshop and write at home” says Dallagiacomo.
Composed of a melting pot of writers, The Verse Lab “will run partially like a creative-writing workshop that you might have on a college campus and partially like a community workshop like we (Forward Arts, Inc.) run and it’s kind of a hybrid of both,” explains Dallagiacomo.
The Verse Lab will also feature some very special guests, including locally celebrated poet Donny Rose and Individual World Poetry Slam champion Chancelier Xero Skidmore. However, as Mr. Rose quickly points out, “We try to keep that hierarchy at a minimum.” Instead, The Verse Lab promotes a community of equally and actively engaged poets. “It’s a great community to be a part of and I think that collectively we have a lot of great knowledge and wealth to pass on to anyone who may be interested in learning the craft. So that’s what’s going to make the verse lab really fun and a really valuable asset.”
Beginning September 13, The Verse Lab will take place at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge on Sundays from 2-4pm for ten weeks. The entire workshop series costs $80 and payment plans can be made available. But, as Dallagiacomo and Rose stress, don’t let the money keep you from attending.
Sitting down with Dallagiacomo and Rose, one picks up on their genuineness almost instantaneously. The work they’ve done, and the relentless effort they continue to put forth in the Baton Rouge poetry scene speaks volumes. As Rose says, “There’s not so much of a hierarchy amongst poets. So maybe the outside realm, they say oh those guys slam, so that’s not of the same prestige. Or, you know these folks are more page poets so they’re not as entertaining. But among us, there is no hierarchy. We coexist in a real beautiful way in Baton Rouge.” Dallagiacomo adds, “Baton Rouge is funny in the way that it is such a humble, modest place, so I think it curates very humble modest writers. We have a very, very rich community that kind of thrives on a community writing together.”
With that being said, this fall come perform alongside one another, come write together, and come be a part of such a poetically powerful movement happening in the Capital City: The Verse Lab.