By Journalist Ms. Jones
POUGHKEEPSIE – “Click, click, click. Clack, clack, clack.” Those were the sounds that you heard as you entered PoughETRY FEST on Saturday, April 23rd at the Cuneen-Hackett Theatre. From watching the movie “Love Jones,” one would expect to hear spoken word and snaps as applause. However, those were the sounds from a typewriter used by “The Poet Is In,” Cathy Schmitz, as she wrote poems on the fly. She asked whoever sat at her booth to tell her a shared experience and typed their poem in two minutes on her typewriter.
“It’s a homage to Lucy from Peanuts…She had that little psychiatrist booth…It said the doctor is in. 5¢. This is just a little homage to that because it’s almost like a little psychiatry session… We’re going to talk a little bit about your feelings,” said Schmitz who has a sign up in front of her booth saying “Poem 5¢- The Poet is In” and used to charge 5¢ for each poem until she received a grant. “Last year, I got an Individual Artist Grant from Arts Mid-Hudson… [I wrote] over 200 poems last year and some of the best poems I kind of put together in this little book.”
The book she is referring to is her book titled “The Poet Is In.” She is not the only one who received a grant from Arts Mid-Hudson. Former Dutchess County Poet Laureate Bettina “Poet Gold” Wilkerson, who started PoughETRY FEST, also received a grant to help fund the event.
“It’s exciting [to be in our fifth year]… The first year I did it, I don’t think I was looking ahead. It was, ‘This is what I want to do in the present, now.’ Then the second year came around and I was able to get another grant. This is partially funded by Arts Mid-Hudson Decentralized Community Grant. And so, I applied for the grant and just continue to apply for the grant and said, ‘Okay, well, I think I want to continue to do this and have it be something that’s permanent.’… Perhaps I’m at the place where I’m thinking about turning it into a nonprofit… and develop some of the other programs as a teaching artist that I do and bring them more locally in the area,’” said Poet Gold who was born in the Bronx, raised in Washington Heights, but loves Poughkeepsie. “I was persuaded by my family [to move here]… We grew up in Washington Heights right by the George Washington Bridge… So, we spent a lot of times [in] our childhood right on the riverbank of the Hudson… I saw the Mid-Hudson Bridge here. I fell in love…It just felt like home. So, I stayed.”
This year’s PoughETRY FEST was a hybrid event. Participants could go online and participate in open mics and workshops. There were also various live events, including a Youth Open Mic and Workshop led by D. Cross and co-hosted by Miguel Sanchez aka “Lito Koqui.” D. Cross used a loop pedal to record everyone in the workshop as they beat-boxed, said a phrase, performed spoken word, or rapped to create a musical masterpiece. He even used baby sounds.
“These types of workshops actually came from… me being an artist.But I’m also an educator… [I am] not only… a poet but… a visual artist…So as a visual artist, poet, also sound [artist], doing all those things…[I take] music and words and [fuse] them together… I like to let some of those art forms sort of bleed into each other. So that way, [I] show young people specifically… that so many of us have multiple talents that we should use and utilize and make the most of. That’s motivation.. I looked at that as… seeing a way to be able to share my gifts that I have and be able to possibly spark something in some of these young people because I feel like they’re brilliant,” said D. Cross who is Next Level’s Hip-Hop Ambassador.
One young person inspired to use his multiple talents is 10-year-old prodigy poet Michael Douglas who stopped by D. Cross’ workshop to spit a few bars as his alter ego J. Swaggy before his poetry performance at the PoughETRY FEST Finale, “Poelodies” which was hosted by Poet Gold. There he recited three poems. He started rapping and reciting poetry after taking piano lessons.
“One day I was on the piano… I was… into superheroes at that time. I was trying to make a superheroes theme song… I actually made a superhero rap… and after a couple days I showed it to my mom… And after that, I actually did a couple more freestyle raps… and that’s how it began,” said Douglas who shared the stage with the “Sounds of Heritage” Gospel Choir and Taina Asili at the PoughETRY FEST Finale and has also performed in Guyana.