The spoken word has taken over the fourth Thursday of every month at The Living Room on Main Street.
The Spoken Word Society has taken root at the venue with what organizers call a judgment-free zone of verbal expression and encouragement.
Millie Hiatt, of Mount Airy, heads the society and has been writing and performing spoken word since the early 90s.
The society also meets at The Fluid Factory in Mount Airy on the second Tuesdays of each month.
Hiatt said that she started crafting stories and poems around the age of 10 and goes by the nickname Miss Christmas Tree.
“Over the years I’ve honed my craft,” Hiatt said.
“It’s a way to use your voice to convey your art form,” Hiatt said of spoken word. “Putting the words in a way for the audience to see the picture that you’re drawing with words.”
Hiatt is both a wife and a mother and often integrates her family life into her spoken word performances. She has crafting a series of pieces about each member of her family, except for her husband who fervently asked her to exclude him from her performances.
Most writers would be reluctant to write about something so personal, but Hiatt said her family has been supportive of her artistic endeavors.
“I don’t think I change anything creatively to make anyone else feel better,” Hiatt said.
There have been two performance pieces that have been especially poignant, Hiatt said, one about her father and one about her daughter.
The piece she wrote about her father is in the form of a daughter who reconnects with her long-lost father, in which she conveys to him that she understands why he left when she was a child, but also explains where she’s coming from on an emotional level.
The poem that Hiatt wrote about her daughter is especially emotional, she said, and is about the two-year journey in which she came to terms with her daughter growing up and going off to college.
“I try to focused on things that I’ve went through to show that I’ve survived, to show that there’s something on the other side,” Hiatt said of the themes that she generally writes about.
Despite dealing with some serious topics in her poems, Hiatt doesn’t shy away from more lighthearted and comical situations, having written a poem about how she got a “bum foot,” which she said was caused by a chicken coup and an egg basket.
Hiatt explained that at the beginning of each performance the society asks that the performer provide a short housekeeping note with a short explanation of the topic of their poem if it deals with extreme circumstances in which a trigger word could cause someone to relive a past experience such as PTSD, rape, hate crimes and police violence.
“If someone doesn’t want to go through it, the housekeeping allows them the ability to opt out of hearing the poem,” Hiatt explained.
Following with the judgment-free and welcoming environment that the society follows, audience members are asked to snap their fingers if they agree with something in the performer’s poem as a means of signifying that they “get” where the performer is coming from.
“If it touches you or you relate to it, snap along to show the poet that what they’re saying is current,” Hiatt said.
If the audience doesn’t agree with what the performer is saying, they are asked to sit quietly and respect the performer.
Hiatt said that the society attracts a wide range of individuals, some of which are professional writers.
“Spoken word is telling a story, it’s just a different form,” Hiatt said. “We invite storytellers to join us.”
The society also publishes poems on its Facebook page as a means to allow people who want to experience spoken word, but aren’t able to make it to the actual performances. Hiatt explained that the poems on the society’s Facebook page are ones that have been “well-traveled” and tested out in front of numerous audiences.
The following is an excerpt from a poem that Hiatt performed on Thursday night, “I was born in West Virginia-West by God Virginia. I grew up in the most rural town in the most rural community. I grew up in the backwoods country and you look at the stereotypical suit that I put on every day. You look at my hair, my nails and my shoes and you assume, assume, that I was born with a silver spoon, that I was born privileged, well you see I was…”
If interested in reading poems or learning more about the Spoken Word Society, visit the group’s Facebook page, “The Spoken Word Society.”