Katie Wirsing

Katie Wirsing

Poetry slam winner to perform at Peninsula College this week

PORT ANGELES — Coming soon: Joy. Electricity via poetry. Katie Wirsing. All free.

Wirsing, a 26-year-old winner of the Individual World Poetry Slam competition, will give a public lunchtime performance in the Little Theater at Peninsula College on Wednesday.

“We saw [Wirsing] at a booking conference in Wenatchee last fall . . . she is truly amazing. She brings a style and talent that most of us have never seen in person,” said Rick Ross, the college’s director of student programs.

The slam poet, reached as she traveled across Texas on Monday, even transmits zeal via email.

“My work definitely focuses on finding and reveling in your own sense of self. Its about discovering what makes your heart sing the most and playing that symphony as loud as your lungs will carry it,” she began.

“At every show, I have an opportunity for anywhere from five to 5,000 people to think about feeling a little more comfortable in their own skin, to be reminded that everyone wrestles that same struggle at some point. There is so much ugly in the world already, without any of us even trying, if all I do is create a little light in my hour of stage time for me and the audience, I can imagine no better way to spend an evening.”

In this case, it’s an hour in the afternoon. Wirsing will step up at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday in one of the college’s free Foothills Writers Series presentations. She lives in Connecticut just outside New York City but is touring the country, having appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, Dyke TV and lots of local radio stations. She makes a living primarily as a performing poet, while picking up jobs cutting hair, applying makeup on models at New York City fashion shows and “tap-dancing on busy streets for whatever gets thrown my way.”

And, Wirsing said, she is feeling especially good now.

“I have recently hit an amazing breaking point in my own creative journey,” she wrote, “that is allowing me to just have fun and remember that all art is important and life-changing and perfect in its own way. There is so much joy to be had in loving what you do, no matter what, and inspiring others to do the same.”

Wirsing has been on stage all her life, starting out in “pink tutu baby ballet class,” then growing into “the kid making a scene wherever there is a scene to be made.”

When asked what she might say to encourage others to write and perform, Wirsing emailed a response that almost leaped through the ether.

“No one has ever thought, ‘Man, I totally wish I hadn’t done that really amazing thing that inspired me and helped me process through this wacky thing called life and made me feel electric,’” she wrote. “That’s what poetry is: It is always a good choice, it is always the therapy you need. It always seems to know more about what you’re feeling than you do, but is oh, so happy to help you sort it out on paper. And once you have it sorted, to claim your space on stage and sing that truth to an audience dying to connect with you and your beautiful humanness, well, if that isn’t some kind of perfect, I don’t know what is.”

Slam poetry, Wirsing believes, is a “boxing match in all of us” — a form of poem-writing and -performance packing competitive heat — but mellower recitation is just fine with her, too.

“On the days you want beauty for beauty’s sake,” Wirsing said, “or to just dance your dance without having a number attached to it, there is regular old poetry reading, which is where it all began.”

And for those who are thirsty for more of this stuff — poems, stories, humor, memoir — the Foothills Writers Series will present its last event of the winter quarter next Wednesday, March 14: Local creative writing students will read their work at 12:30 p.m. in Maier Hall, the new performance space at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

For information about the writers series and other public activities on campus, visit www.PenCol.edu or find the college on Facebook.


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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