Around the same time I came out to the World Wide Web at large as a “blogger,” I noticed that one of my very talented friends, Richard Heyne, was diving into a new and exciting project of his own. And yes, this spoken-word artist, writer and educator is making quite the splash. Dick Does Poetry brings weekly videos of Richard’s self-written poems to your computer screen in a social media blitzkrieg.
I was intrigued by this project from the beginning–I’ve been a huge fan of slam and spoken-word poetry for years but have always felt a little shy about the process. I’d much rather hide behind the words on the page in the hopes that if an audience hears their own voice, as well as mine, in what I write, they won’t…well….hate it. Dick Does Poetry completely turns this fear on it’s head by taking the internet oath to bring you new content each week. The poems themselves are diverse and vulnerable, they aren’t always perfect. But, as Richard points out, that’s the point. Desensitizing us to the grittiness and honesty of a quick turnaround poem could do a lot to encourage the masses to share their art, too. Richard’s project also attempts to ameliorate writer’s block for his audience. A unique twist in a genre that can sometimes come off as a little self-aggrandizing. And Dick Does Poetry offers this new, accessible approach to poetry and community all through the power of YouTube…
Eager to learn more about Dick Does Poetry, I set up a chat with the Dick behind the poetry…Check it out!
First things first, give us a rundown of your project.
Okay, so basically, Dick Does Poetry is a YouTube channel that celebrates the spoken word. Every week I upload at least one new poem. One element that makes this project unique is the video description for each of these videos includes the prompt that I used to write whatever poem people are listening to. This was inspired by the fact that no one is really out there doing what I’m doing right now. YouTube is such an awesome resource for performance artists. Yet, when you try to find spoken word (or any poetry for that matter) you get a lot of performances in coffee shops or poetry slams. While these are awesome, the video quality is usually so bad that you can’t fully enjoy the poetry. I’m hoping that my channel will inspire others to follow suit–start their own channels and share their own poetry. The prompts are there to help keep them inspired and writing.That being said, my project is also for anyone who just wants to enjoy some poetry. It is nice to have a source that is constantly adding new material. So, I want to provide that as well.
You mentioned that you share the method (prompt, inspiration, etc) that informed each of your poems in the “About” section of their video. Where did that idea come from?
Well, I don’t want this to be something only I do. Right now the project is growing and starting to pick up steam. I’m hoping as it becomes more established, similar channels will emerge. People will use those prompts and write their own poems. Maybe post video responses to my original video. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to have all these different channels where everyone is just writing and sharing and providing feedback? I’m a dreamer. I love poetry. I think this can happen.
How did you initially stumble upon the spoken word community?
I first started doing spoken word in 10th grade, and competed in my first slam that same year. My Speech & Debate coach (Travis Kiger) was somewhat of a spoken word guru and took me under his wing. He took a group of us to go compete in this slam at the Write Side Café in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I wish I had filmed this whole process. It was for sure a little comical. There were like eight students from my school competing and maybe ten other poets who actually knew what they were doing. The slam was set up to find members for the Ft. Lauderdale Brave New Voices team. (Brave New Voices is the largest high school slam in the world). Well, this slam was somewhat of a train wreck. We weren’t memorized. We were shy. It just didn’t go well.To make the team you had to finish top four. I managed to get 5th after performing a poem about breaking up with God that was received really well. I got a perfect 30, and it gave me just enough of a bump to almost make the team. But, alas, you needed to get top four.However! Team Jacksonville was at that slam, scoping out the competition. Long story short, they liked me. They reached out to me. I went to Brave New Voices with them. Out of the 50 teams there from around the world, we made it to the final stage.I performed for over three thousand people, and I’ve pretty much been hooked since.
Web-based projects like yours are awesome because they make art so wonderfully accessible but they can also act as educational tools. What new knowledge do you think Dick Does Poetry followers can take away from your project?
The biggest takeaway from this project is there is nothing to fear with sharing your poetry. That is easily everyone’s greatest fear, and I suspect the reason why this kind of project doesn’t exist. Yes, I have gotten some really mean comments. Yes, people send me feedback that is helpful, but also hurtful. Hell, I recently got my first dislike! That sucked! But, that is just part of what we do. Poets are special because they know how to capture beauty and vulnerability and things that normal people only feel, but don’t understand. We are the interpreters of life. Unfortunately, we’re also a closeted bunch. Sure, the prompts are fun. The poetry is pretty decent and getting better. But, when I have a poet message me and say they started writing again because of this channel, or they think they’re ready to do their first poetry reading because of what I’m doing… THAT’S what I want to teach. Screw the haters. They’re going to exist in your life, regardless of what you’re doing. So why not do something beautiful? Enough people will be there to love and support you.
Were you nervous about starting such a visible project?
YES! I was scared as hell starting this thing. I’ve had this idea since my sophomore year in college. I’m a second semester senior and I’m just now starting it. Understand a lot of these poems I’m writing the week before. It is very Trey Parker and Matt Stone of me. I write on Saturday, revise Sunday and Monday, film Tuesday, edit Wednesday, record the outro and upload to YouTube on Thursday. A lot of poetry we see has gone through workshops, several rounds of revision, performance work, memorization, etc. I’m kind of just winging it. It’s scary. I stumble in the videos. I make odd inflections with my voice. But, that is what this channel is all about. Making mistakes. Learning. Growing.
We’re always in pursuit of lifelong learning here on the ol’ blog, I’d love to know–what resources would you recommend for readers who would like to delve deeper?
Okay, with these questions, people like to leave a laundry list of things. I’ve always found that overwhelming. Anyone who wants to delve deeper, go on Amazon and buy The Monkey and The Wrench edited by Mary Biddinger and John Gallaher. You can get it for like fifteen dollars and it will change your entire outlook on poetry. I’ve read it like eight times.
Finally, who do you write FOR?
I write for who I used to be. For who “we” used to be. So much of poetry, and life for that matter, is based on reflecting upon what has happened up until this point. I’m constantly trying to evolve, and take a lot of pride in each step I take forward. In that process, we lose pieces of ourselves. One of the most heartbreaking facts of life is no one will ever be the same forever. I want to capture every version of myself in a time capsule- type fashion. I write for the homophobic middle school Richard. I write for the awkward high school Richard. I write for yesterday’s Richard who I’m still trying to figure out. Hopefully along the way I write a lot of truth. Hopefully people take something from that. Hopefully it lasts for a lot of lifetimes. The quotation I live by is from my favorite author Chuck Palahniuk: “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
Thank you so much, Richard!
If you’d like to be in the Dick Does Poetry loop…
Subscribe to the YouTube channel here.
Follow on Twitter here.
And LIKE on Facebook here.
Now, scoot on over to Richard’s channel and watch some poetry videos! Make today the day you write a poem! If you’re feeling newly inspired and brave…record it, upload it to YouTube and share it with Dick Does Poetry! There is no stopping a community of words, a community of voices bound together. And as Richard would say…
❤ Peace, love and poetry! ❤