Women of Word perform for Women’s History Month

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 at 5:01 PM

Edinboro University brought Erie’s Women of Word poetry group to the Diebold Center for the Performing Arts on March 21. An installment for Women’s History Month, the show included three dance segments by Sukanya Burham and Brett Fallon, along with original poetry readings on a variety of topics such as domestic violence, depression, PTSD, loss and love. 

Each segment offered different perspectives and stories from Women of Word, as well as poets Darryl M. Brown and Matt Borczon, who were humorously called “Man Made Words.” Thasia Anne, Marge Wonner, Luchetta Cookie Manus and Kat Wolper are the poets in the group. Jack Wonner provided pre-show entertainment and Maddie Krol handled lights.

The show began with a segment called “Negative Words” in order to accomplish some venting and release tension the performers had. A series of poems written about women’s empowerment and their accomplishments made up the punny “Herstory” segment. 

Burham then led into her first dance piece. Burham was adorned with jewelry that jangled and shook as she danced and stomped along in rhythm to the music. 

An issue that affects nearly 20 people per minute in the United States, according to Project Sanctuary, domestic violence was one of the topics for poems. The women sat on a couch and chairs as if meeting in a support group before reading their poems in response to each other. Anne actually founded Women of Word after sharing her experiences of domestic violence and continually having people come up to her and tell her they had gone through something similar.

She decided to create a group where people could vent and share their own experiences. “I had already written a collection of domestic violence poems, which is what I did when I survived and got out; it’s how I cleared my head, so to speak.” In addition to this, Anne includes resources to domestic violence hotlines, mental health hotlines and rehabilitation centers on the program for each show in case the material triggers someone who is struggling with those issues themselves.

Brown then shared a piece about the history and lost message of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and how the term “Uncle Tom” has been misunderstood and debased in our culture. An oral storyteller, Brown’s voice echoed throughout the audience. 

There was another brief break from poetry as Anne and Burham performed a dance piece called “Response Drumming.” Anne would pat out a pattern on the drums and Burham stomped and danced out her own response. By the end of the piece, Burham joined Anne on the drum before she declared Burham the winner, exclaiming “You got me!”

Addiction was the following topic for poems, while local dancer Fallon performed afterwards. Fallon has been dancing since he was young and got involved with Women of Word after inviting Anne to one of his dance shows. 

As mentioned earlier, poetry can be a means of venting and dealing with memories that are too heavy to carry on your own. The next segment dealt with depression, with writer and local poet Borczon sharing his struggles with PTSD. A veteran of the Afghanistan War, Borczon stated, “I hadn’t written in 10 years, but I started writing two years ago in order to just kinda get it out.” 

Poet Wonner then read her “Desk” poem, pondering who her husband might write to when she’s gone. When asked about what inspires much of her writing, Wonner replied, “My husband!” The piece acted as a way to transition out of darker subject matter with a little humor and grace before leading into poems about loss. 

And as a way to end on a happier note, the show concluded with a series of love poems and “positive words,” which included pieces for loved ones and even a poem regarding the sensual delight of cooking a turkey by Brown, which caused the audience and the members of WOW to erupt into laughter.  

The Women of Word group meets at Calamari’s in Erie on State Street every Tuesday night. The meetings are typically open mic events, but occasionally there are guest speakers that come as well. The members encourage bringing original material to read, but everyone is welcome to enjoy and listen.

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com. 

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