Tag Archives: Lunacy Stageworks

Poetic Justice: Street poets break down stereotypes and prejudice with the power of words

By Devan Schwartz, Contributing Writer

The audience is quiet. Lights rise slowly, backlighting the stage. There are silhouettes of men and women seated there. A woman steps to a stage-right podium, a man to another.

She recites a poem, the proscenium illumined by a burnt orange filter; he begins to read his own. One after another, like a revolving door, the poets share original work. Their words puncture the audience’s egos, drawing us into their worlds.  Some are nervous reading aloud. Others are seasoned performers who wait for laughter, the sinking in of emotion.

We are occupying the Sellwood Masonic Temple in Southeast Portland. The event, co-produced by Lunacy Stageworks and Street Roots, brings to life some of the most affecting voices of local homeless and street writers.

In a way it’s an awakening to hear the poetry, which transcends the basic needs of food, shelter and employment so often paramount to survival. The poets’ desires for basic needs certainly come out in the writing, though an array of content inhabits the event’s atmosphere: from salient political issues (sit-lie ordinance, City of Portland’s camping ban), to drug addiction and love affairs that withered on the vine. There’s desperation to the words, resigned humor, an overt hopefulness. Their poems are as simple and complex as the human spirit itself.

“Poetry breaks through classes,” says Ann Singer, fundraiser and special events coordinator for Lunacy Stageworks. “It can come from anywhere. And if you have that talent you can break through class boundaries. Audiences say ‘that’s a great poet; that’s a great writer.’” Continue reading