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Roundabout with Micah: Poetry comes to life through Wordplay

Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 8:06 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 11:04 a.m. CDT

My name is Micah Andersen. I am a poet, a writer and a senior looking to make my mark on the world. I am an intern here at the Kane County Chronicle and am planning to write four columns, including the one you are reading now, before the end of my internship.

One of the poetry events I participate in is Wordplay, a weekly writing and teaching event for teens in the area. Local Wordplay events take place in Batavia, St. Charles and Elgin.

Each night begins with a writing workshop by one of the teaching artists, followed by open mic time and closing with a featured poet or performance. Wordplay is more than open mic time, though, and it is more than a workshop.

It is a safe space where teens from the area come together to share their stories. Diana Zwinak is the executive director of Wordplay in the west suburbs, which is sponsored by the Teen Writers and Artists Project.

The Teen Writers and Artists Project has been helping teen artists for seven years. Wordplay in the west suburbs – including the Kane County area – has existed for one year. Diana and other teaching artists at TWAAP saw the need for a traveling open mic so that teens could connect with other writers and artists. According to Diana, the first west suburban event was held in Wheaton. Diana said the teachers were amazed at the enthusiastic attendance for the Wordplays. It now takes place on a weekly basis at different venues, rotating between Waterstreet Studios in Batavia and Marquee Youth Stage in St. Charles. Organizers are currently looking for a new home in the Elgin area.

Having gone to many of these events myself, I can personally say the sponsors and teachers have created a revolutionary environment for teens to share their poetry, stories and experiences.

Diana is the driving force behind these events. As executive director, her job includes organizing the venues, inviting the featured performers, feeding the teen poets who attend, prepping workshops and fundraising. All of this keeps Diana incredibly busy, but she still finds time to enjoy the events, she said.

When asked what her favorite Wordplay event has been, Diana laughed and said “it’s always the last one.” She lists the Louder Than a Bomb event “Slammin’ The Sun Down”; Ethan Viets Vanlear’s Wordplay feature; and Buddy Wakefield’s recent visit to a Wordplay night as favorites.

Diana and I also talked about the future of Wordplay. The plans and dreams are big for this growing event and teen community. Diana said the team of teaching artists really wants to build participation in the weekly events, as well as get into local schools to expose more students to poetry and encourage participation in the arts. Diana said it is “such an honor and a pleasure to be working with the youth all over the Fox Valley area.”

Thinking back to my own experiences with Wordplay and the Teen Writers and Artists Project, I cannot help but echo Diana’s enthusiasm when speaking of such an inspiring event happening right here in the suburbs. You can get involved in Worldplay by calling Diana at 630-677-8735 or by attending a Wordplay event. The next event will be at 7 p.m. April 25 at Water Street Studios, 160 S. Water St., Batavia, and there is no admission fee.

• Micah Andersen is a senior at Geneva High School who will be attending Judson University in the fall. She loves poetry, stories and has a blog at never-stop-writing.com. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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