In a literal sense, Peace Center poet-in-residence Glenis Redmond has had seven years to perfect the formula for Peace Voices, a 10-month, multi-event series designed to expose the Upstate to poetry through live performances and readings, classes with visiting artists, workshops, a poetry slam, and book discussions. She’s been at the helm of the program for that long, curating the events and expanding the series’ reach a little more every year.
“I had a plan in place when I came here, but it’s taken seven years to get it fully robust,” Redmond says. “We started off with a few workshops and expanded it from there.”
The 2018-19 edition of Peace Voices (outlined in last week’s issue here) has a lot more to offer than workshops, though they’re certainly still part of the mix. Redmond has created a schedule of events that includes themed gatherings of poets (including a local-author showcase called “Palmetto Poets: As We Breathe We Hope” and a celebration of Women’s History Month called “He Said, She Said”), live performances and readings by those taking part in the workshops, a teens-only poetry slam, and two book discussions. It’s the most-far-reaching version yet of Peace Voices. And it’s while discussing the series that Redmond says she’s been planning this a lot longer than seven years.
“Honestly, it’s taken all 25 years of my training to figure this out,” she says. “I’ve brought everything I had before I came to the Peace Center full time. It’s taken all of my skills to cultivate these different avenues. What we’re really trying to do here is create a vibrant community where anybody can capture a story, create a story, and participate.”
In addition to an appearance by acclaimed, National Book Award-winning poet Jacqueline Woodson, Redmond says she is most excited about the Peace Voices Poetry Ambassadors, a program designed for eighth- through 12th-graders that helps young people develop their passions, and advocacy, for poetry.
“What I’m doing is grooming them to become teaching artists; to take poetry out into the community,” Redmond says. “What I’m asking them to do is not only be engaged in the craft of poetry but in giving it away. When I’m called to go speak at a Rotary Club, I’ll have two or three of my ambassadors come along with me. When we have our board meetings, there will be three or four ambassadors who will perform. And my ambassadors will pick and study one of the poets that’s coming to town and introduce them at their master class.”
Redmond aims to attract as wide and diverse an audience as possible for the Peace Voices events, all of which are free to the public. Taken as a whole, the events, workshops, and discussions include people who have never written a poem before, poets who have been published, and nationally respected writers.
“One of my guiding principles is the Maya Angelou quote, ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike,’” Redmond says. “I think we’re able through Peace Voices to bring some of those walls down. This is a very diverse community.”
But the Peace Voices series is about more than that for Redmond. It’s about making poetry as resonant to others as it has been for her. Twenty-five years ago, Redmond, who has won a multitude of awards and grants, from the North Carolina Literary Arts Fellowship to the Denny C. Plattner Award for Outstanding Poetry, ended her career as a clinical counselor because she’d been diagnosed with stress-exacerbated fibromyalgia. To this day, she remembers a doctor telling her, “You’re not going to die from this, but you’ll sure wish you had.”
A lifelong lover of poetry, Redmond took solace in a poem by Lucille Clifton called “Won’t You Come Celebrate With Me,” specifically a passage that reads, “Come celebrate with me that everyday/ Something has tried to kill me and has failed.”
“It was like a lightning rod for me,” she says. “It gave me a vocation and a calling. I kind of see what I do as mission work. Being inspired is one of the most powerful things we can have in our lives. I love all the arts, but poetry is one of those things that I’ve seen transform lives. Every day that I wake up, a poem flowers within me and gives me something to say that makes me want to continue on this path and be my best self.”
Find out more
For the full Peace Voices schedule, visit https://www.peacecenter.org/community-impact/peacevoices