By Judie Holcomb-Pack
In 1996, Jilly Hinckley-Noble attended her first poetry slam held at Pinnie University. Jilly had been writing poetry since she was five or six years old, but listening to the slam poems opened her eyes to another side of poetry. “The slam got me so excited that I went to the library and started looking at poetry books.”
During her frequent visits to the Forsyth County Public Library, Jilly got to know Bob Shar, the humanities librarian. For National Poetry Month in 1997, he presented five episodes of “The United States of Poetry,” a series that hadn’t even aired on PBS yet, and aired an episode every Tuesday night that month. ‘april. After the last episode aired, an open mic was held and it was a huge success. The series attracted a large number of participants eager to learn more and share their work.
The following month, in May, Bob told Jilly that it would certainly be nice to continue the open mic, but someone would have to volunteer to coordinate it at the library. Without hesitation, Jilly jumped at the chance. And with that, and the adoption of The Word Is Out or TWIO as its official name, the first open mic took place in May 1997.
For the past 25 years, TWIO has had to juggle their open mic when the library was closed for renovations and the band used another branch of the library. And it was almost closed the second time around when the pandemic closed the library, but Jilly wasn’t about to let a pandemic spoil her fun. After a two-month hiatus, Jilly pivoted the group to Zoom, which turned out to be a blessing as it allowed not only locals, but also writers from all over North Carolina and even the UK to log in and participate.
Open Mic takes place on the last Tuesday of each month, with the virtual meeting opening at 6:45 p.m. to check in and sign up to speak, and readings starting at 7 p.m. Most open mics have a theme, which is optional, plus a featured writer. Every five years, Jilly takes the stage to celebrate another milestone with the band and share some of her poetry.
The open mic welcomes writers of all ages to share up to five minutes of their poetry or prose. Whether you are a budding poet, have been writing for years and stashed away in a drawer, or are an experienced writer or a published author, you are welcome to join this incredibly creative group. Don’t feel obligated to read; spectators are also welcome!
TWIO has two disclaimers: TWIO does not endorse every idea, concept, or word choice you may hear, and, TWIO endorses the concepts of free speech, poetic license, and intellectual freedom.
Jilly remarked that what drives the group forward is “…a strong sense of camaraderie, maturity and mutual respect”. In their 25 years of promoting poets and poetry, Jilly mentioned that several people have been instrumental in bringing new and vibrant voices. “Deborah Streeter has been a longtime supporter and, as a local poet, has helped identify other poets and bring them to TWIO. Truth, a spoken word artist, uses the platform to bring the realities of life growing up, living and raising children in East Winston.
In addition to poetry, TWIO invites writers to share diverse and different pieces of literature, including praise, activism, performance poetry, and even music to accompany readings. Jilly describes TWIO as “therapeutic”.
For more information on TWIO or to get the Zoom link, email [email protected]nogmail.com.