Writers Collective seeks to dismantle poetry stereotypes

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By Melanie Buer
CONTRIBUTOR

For the last couple of years, the Nebraska Writers Collective, or NWC, has been a driving force in bringing literary arts to high schools.

The NWC’s executive director, Matt Mason, and his dedicated staff of visiting teachers, poets and other volunteers have implemented slam poetry and other literary arts pro-grams in schools in and around the Omaha metro area.

Founded in 2008, the NWC began as a way of supporting poets and events in Lincoln, Neb. After moving the group to Omaha, they began implementing literary arts programs in area high schools.

Mason, who has served as the director of the non-profit since 2009, said he is amazed by the community and how fast the organization has grown.

“There’s a clear desire for more arts in our schools,” he said, “and I really believe we are just a part of something bigger starting [sic].”

COURTESY OF NEBRASKA WRITERS COLLECTIVE
COURTESY OF NEBRASKA WRITERS COLLECTIVE

The NWC has four main programs that they bring to more than 35 high schools in Omaha and throughout Nebraska, the most notable being the Louder Than A Bomb slam poetry festival.

Originating in Chicago, Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB): Great Plains has enjoyed continued success
since its first event in 2012. The sanctioned event offers a stage for high schooled-aged students to ex-press themselves through literary creativity and performance.

“[The programs] help by of course teaching creative writing and performance,” Mason said, “but really go much further in teaching students confidence in their abilities, helps them express themselves more effectively, builds relation-ships, and puts them in a room with people they wouldn’t other-wise know.”
Participants in the various literary workshops and outreach programs have gone on to success at the University level as well.

According to Mason, last year’s LTAB individual champion, Tiauna Lewis, joined the poetry slam team
at Swarthmore College.

The team is set to compete in the 2016 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, which is a nation-al event that hosted more than 60 teams from around the country last year.
Mason hopes that the NWC will continue finding ways to bring students from all backgrounds together in the coming years.

“I want us to be working for students, for teachers, and for artists to make Nebraska and the Midwest a better place to live,” he said. “It shows the power of the Arts and how we all have something worthy to say.”

The NWC is always looking for volunteers and donors, and more information can be found on tzheir website, newriters.org

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