Before he could begin speaking, J. Wiggins excused himself for a moment and pulled a wide-ruled notebook from his backpack. Thoughts and feelings are more to him than passing fancies; they are art, pieces of his soul. To move on and forget the perfect words would be to forever lose a piece of himself.
A few seconds to jot down his thoughts and Wiggins was ready to check back into the present. Yet in many ways, co-hosting the Wednesday night Dope Poetry open-mic event has allowed him to reconnect with a love for poetry and spoken word he once thought he’d left in the past.
Dope Poetry is co-hosted by Wiggins and Anthony “Proverb” Crawford and occurs weekly 7 p.m. Wednesdays at ICE Event Center & Grill, 1148 NE 36th St. Everyone is welcome to perform — from poets who have been writing for years to those who just finished writing their first piece 20 minutes ago.
Even those walking into ICE with no intention of getting on a stage might end up leaving the building with their first poem performance under their belt. Wiggins and Crawford can often be seen approaching those who enter with the sign-up sheet, encouraging them to give it a shot, self-identifying artist or not.
“I think everyone’s an artist, and that’s the main conversation I have with people when they come to the door,” Wiggins said. “They say, ‘Well, I’m not a poet,’ and we say, ‘No, you are a poet.’ You probably grew up with a diary. The only difference between me and you is I’m reading my diary and you’re watching me. It’s really just fear; that’s the only difference.”
Performer or not, attending Dope Poetry is opening oneself up to the full range of human emotion. Wiggins said even though he has hosted other poetry events in the past, the openness and positivity he has felt through Dope Poetry took him back to the height of his poetry career more than a decade ago.
“You will be happy; you will smile; you will laugh like you’ve never laughed before,” he said. “You will cry; you will be sad. You might walk off the stage and get a trio of hugs. That’s happened within the last week or two.”
Dope Poetry began when Wiggins and ICE owner Marc Flemon noticed a void in the local market when it came to poetry nights. The first show was in November, and Crawford was soon a co-host.
Crawford is originally from California but now teaches English at Northeast Academy for Health Sciences and Engineering Enterprise. He said there are a good number of local performers, but many one-time poets have fallen out of practice due to lack of venues or waning interest.
“They just need a platform,” Crawford said. “They need somewhere where they can go and brush up and get their own things going.”
The co-host said one of their goals is to foster a minimally threatening performance environment. They push love and positive energy from start to finish.
“We allow them to be themselves,” Crawford said. “When they get on the stage, they see we’re being ourselves, so it opens up the door for them to be themselves. It becomes more than just poetry after that. It becomes a platform for people to get out some of the issues that they’ve been dealing with or some things that they may see in society.”
7 p.m. Wednesday nights
ICE Event Center & Grill
1148 NE 36th St.
Print Headline: Art expression, Dope Poetry is one of several free weekly events at ICE Event Center & Grill.