Dig Baton Rouge

Valentine Verses

The next generation of Baton Rouge’s burgeoning poetry scene will display their talents on February 13th at the Valentine’s Day edition of the Freshhh Heat Teen Open Mic and Poetry Slam.

The monthly showcase is organized by Forward Arts’ WordPlay Writing Project, a creative writing program that specializes in spoken word poetry workshops. Freshhh Heat provides around 30 teenage poets – ranging from age 13-19 – with the opportunity to take the mic and share their poetry, as well as competing in using their words to find favor with the audience.

The program was founded in 2005 by Anna West and operated under the Big Buddy Program until 2011, when two of its leaders, Donney Rose and Chancelier “Xero” Skidmore, created the non-profit Forward Arts. The WordPlay Writing Project is now the flagship program of the non-profit organization.

“Many of the Freshhhh Heat attendees and participants come from WordPlay’s in-school writing residencies, but not all of them do,” says Forward Arts program director Donney Rose. “Teens can be involved simply by showing up.”

In addition to the youth open mic and poetry slam, renowned spoken word poet Desireé Dallagiacomo is this month’s featured poet. Dallagiacomo is a three-time member of the Baton Rouge National Poetry Slam Team, the 2013 Southwest Shootout Slam Champion and Pushcart Prize nominee.

“She is a rock star among the youth poets in Baton Rouge,” says Rose. “They follow her work on Tumblr and watch all her YouTube videos.”

Dallagiacomo taught with the WordPlay Writing Project before moving to New Orleans and is still connected to the youth scene in Baton Rouge.

“She’s only, on average, about 7-9 years older than most of the youth poets at Freshhhh Heat,” Rose explained, “So she has a cool, older sister factor that works for her as well.”

The Freshhh Heat events have typically been held in Hartley/Vey Studio, which is located inside the Shaw Center for the Arts. Due to a scheduling conflict, this month’s edition has been moved to The Manship Theatre. According to event organizers, it may be for the best.

“It works in our favor as we have been running out of seating in [Hartley/Vey Studio] for the last 3 months,” Rose said about the change in venue. “Each month we see anywhere between 150-200 audience members.”

It is clear that with events like Freshhh Heat in place for city’s young poets, the Baton Rouge spoken word scene is poised to grow exponentially in the years to come.

Admission for Freshhh Heat is $5 and can be paid at the door. The Manship Theatre doors will open at 6pm and the event last until 8:30pm. Participation in the open mic and poetry slam portion is exclusively for youth, ages 13-19.

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