Local poet and spoken word artist, Dustin Nispel, and his fiancee, performance poet, Jessica Flynn, have been selected as a dynamic duo to attend the annual Ditet e Naimit International Albanian Poetry Festival in Tetova, Macedonia. Why is this so amazing? Because in addition to being incredible performers, they were highlights at Equality Fest for 2 years in a row and because Dustin and Jess are a powerful set of community activists for Equality in all it’s shapes and forms. It’s amazing to know that two York born-and-bred Equality activists are being recognized on an international stage. York has talent that is just THAT good!
Dustin and Jessica were recommended for the honor by former Berks County Poet Laureate, and United States nominating committee chair, Craig Czury, who says this of the couple; “They perform their poems together and separately, and are a total power force of poetry.”
“We hope to represent our culture and our country.” Dustin said to me. “We want the world to know what York, and what the U.S. urban culture, has to offer.”
Dustin, the winner of the 2014 Capital City Slam Competition among tons of other competitions is the author of The Tower from local printing house, PoemSugar Press/Community Arts Ink (www.communityartsink.com). Jessica is the author of the forthcoming book, Through The Cracks, also from PoemSugar Press. They make up two-thirds of the ownership of local gallery and retail space, The Rooted, fast becoming a creative anchor in the emerging “WeCo” (West of the Codorus, for the uninitiated) community on York’s west side, where they hold poetry readings as well as art openings. The Rooted has also been integral in bringing art to the community by being a partner in the 2015 Creekfire festival series and partners with local charities such as St. Jude’s Children Hospital and The York Rescue Mission and many others in efforts to raise donations and drum up local interest and support.
I was curious, how does a poet, the kind of person who often falls outside of the more political or technical aspect of things, become so passionately involved in working with marginalized communities – ones who doesn’t even belong to. Dustin said this; “Poets are often held in higher regard in other cultures because of their empathy and emotional insights. For example, it was the custom of ancient Middle Eastern rulers to consult the court poet before going to war or taking other important actions. It is imperative that we support our community as they have supported us for all of these years. It is important that we use our voices to lead and motivate positive change.”
Dustin and Jessica, have been writing and performing since high school and serve as frequent mentors and speakers at local schools and community organizations. They consider themselves primarily spoken-word artists. Unlike more traditional poets, they focus more on drama and delivery than form or guideline structure. And their often rapid-fire delivery and raw emotion stand in contrast to the more formal contemporary poetry style popular in Europe.
Jessica – who began writing poems secretly at 13 as a way to cope with a tough adolescence – also wants to start workshops for people to use poetry as an outlet for emotional pain and a vehicle for personal growth.
“If they could just pull out whatever is inside of them and find their passion, poetry can change their lives,” she said. “That’s what it did for me.”
Readings hosted by the Rooted occur every 2nd and 4th Friday at the Rooted, at 101 N. Newberry St. Dustin and Jessica are also seeking sponsors to make their trip to Macedonia possible. They have set up a GoFundMe at gofundme.com/DustinandJessica. Individuals or organizations seeking more information can contact the duo at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Dustin and see some cool performance footage at http://www.denpoetry.com/