To read the written word is one thing: it allows one to understand the self, to connect with others, and even to fantasize in an imagined world. But to hear the written the word—that’s a completely separate thing. That’s exactly what “LIVE at the Writers House” does. Occuring six times a year, LIVE at the Writers House airs a “one–hour broadcast of poetry, music, and other spoken–word art, along with one musical guest from the Writers House onto the airwaves at WXPN.”

Started in 1997, LIVE at the Writers House is a collaboration between the Writers House and WXPN (the radio station licensed to Penn, but separate from the station created by student programmers). For each program, LIVE partners with people or organizations from a community and showcases a few different writers at the same time. 

On February 26th, LIVE collaborated with One Book, One Philadelphia, which is “a signature event of the Free Library of Philadelphia that promotes literacy, library usage, and citywide conversation by encouraging the entire greater Philadelphia area to come together through reading and discussing a single book.“ The selected text this year was Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn, a novel exploring the complexities of the human experience and interaction. Given this, the panel consisted of several writers, poets, slam poets, and musicians alike, who cover similar themes: Ruja Ballard, Veronica Nocella, Shirmina Smith, Robyn Espaillat, and Christinna Stephens. 

Through their collaboration with WXPN, the Writers House is able to send the recordings to the radio station to be broadcast. These files are also posted online for the audience to revisit again and again. 

The point of the LIVE experience is for the writers to read their work out loud. Having them do so completely changes the experience of the writing. The heavy punctuation, the thrusts of the voice, and the urgency in the tones influence our grasp on the meaning of the piece. How writers read their works and what they emphasize help us learn more about their intentions. It’s their way to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly with us. 

As for me, I sat there, listening to story after story. There were stories of self–discovery. Stories of romantic melancholy. Of challenging social norms and constructs. Of fighting against queer phobia, sexism, mental illness, and racial injustices. Whether or not I myself could relate to the stories, I found each moving and beautiful; the ingenuity and earnestness in each piece was profound in their ideas and motivations. 

It’s an experience that surpasses that of merely reading a book. As the writers convey the words, we feel the words. In a sense, the poems read out loud form a meeting place between the writer and the reader. 

Look out for the next LIVE event coming in March. 


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