Written by Karen Moeller
One of Forward Theater's goals is to build artistic partnerships within our community. To that end, FTC partnered with Verse Wisconsin to create a collaborative project around our 2013-14 season opener, Sons of the Prophet. Last summer, area poets and writers were given the challenge of writing an original poem that incorporated a line from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Over sixty poets responded, and Verse Wisconsin chose sixteen winners to be featured in a display outside the Playhouse Theater during the run of the show. In addition, the Wisconsin Book Festival and the Wisconsin Historical Society each hosted events that featured some of the winning poems read by the poets themselves, along with readings of scenes from the play.
When I invited all of the participating poets to read at the Book Festival, I crossed my fingers and hoped that we might be lucky enough to have seven or eight of the poets attend. Instead, fifteen of the sixteen poets came and read their poems, and it was an absolute delight. One of the things that struck me was how different an experience it is to hear a poem read by the author, as opposed to just reading it on paper. My favorite example of this was a poem that contained every use of the word "heart" found in The Prophet. What appeared to be just a random list on paper, "His heart, My Heart, Their Hearts", etc., turned into a heartbeat when read aloud. It was such a thrill to see the looks on people's faces as they realized what the poet had done -- it was brilliant.
Many of the poems connected back to the play, Sons of the Prophet, both intentionally and sometimes, by coincidence. That was even more evident at the Historical Society dinner, which featured only four of the poets and four scenes from the play. The poems and scenes flowed into one another seamlessly, and I was fascinated by how different forms of creative performance and art can illuminate the same subject matter in their own, unique ways.
All of the poems have been published at the Verse Wisconsin website, and I urge you to check them out when you can. In addition, when attending Sons of the Prophet, be sure to allow extra time to visit the display in the lobby. After all, poems are best experienced when you can allow the rhythm of the words to overtake you.