For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been one for large crowds, or any crowd for that matter. I’m more of a few people person. I’ll invite a few people over, go out to lunch with a few people, or talk with a few people at a big event. You get the picture.

But here’s the thing: if there is an event that makes me laugh and think deeply? I’m there. Add a panel of sorts or small group discussions and you’ve won me over. This is exactly what the Poets In Autumn tour has done. It also combines personal, social, political, cultural commentary from a spiritual perspective to consistently capture, “I’m saying what everyone’s thinking.” It does so in a distinctive and personal way. Despite it being a larger event (from my estimation 800+), this was my third year at the PIA tour. It has become a regular exception.

Personal Touch

Beyond sheer talent and years of cultivating their literary gifts, Ezekiel Azonwu, Janette…IKZ, Preston Perry, Jackie Hill-Perry, Chris Webb, and Joseph Solomon habitually touch on sensitive topics in a raw, amusing, and engaging way. This year was no different.

Maybe it was their literary gymnastics that had you listening intently to catch the metaphors. Or the way they boldly ask questions about God out loud; questions that believers often don’t want to ask because they’re afraid of the answers. Maybe it’s the way they combined their personal perspectives and stories to grab and play deep chords of nostalgia and empathy from beginning to end. Maybe it’s their jokes that had you rolling, both the raw and rehearsed.

Last year, Joseph Solomon performed his Depression Is poem. His lips expressed feelings and thoughts I dealt with on and off that I didn’t quite know or want to express myself.

This year, in the same way, I also connected personally with certain pieces from the poets but I don’t want to give any specifics for those who haven’t gone yet. I’m sure there is enough promotional content on the website and floating around Instagram to give you an idea of what goes down. What I will do is give you a few reasons why you should go, even if you’re not a fan of crowds like me.

Go to Learn, Grow, and Think Differently

I thrive off nuance and bare-faced honesty. Life is too complicated for one-sided stories. I search for different perspectives. While I may share some commonalities like skin tone with some of the poets, beyond what they reveal on social media or through their art, there’s a lot I don’t know. This is why I love panels. It’s an opportunity to ask new questions, request further clarification, and for the artists to reveal more about who they are and what they care about.

Difference is the easiest way to find nuance. For one, I live in Canada so there are already some cultural and political differences. I spent most of my childhood in middle-class Jamaica, before I came to Canada, so that’s another. In Toronto, the demographics in Black communities may be different. Most of my friends are children of Caribbean and African immigrants or were immigrants themselves. Much of what I know about Americans come from conversations with my family in Atlanta, friends who’ve immigrated to or from the states, and largely the media. I also get information from others (like the poets) on social media. This is another reason I love panels: I prefer to hear from and talk to people with lived experiences, not just theories.

Yet difference didn’t deafen my empathy for the emotions, family stories, or violence in their pieces, even though we probably have experienced these things differently. For instance, I spent most of my childhood as a middle-class Jamaican. But It didn’t matter your skin color or wealth, you weren’t shielded from violence, whether directly or indirectly.

As a deeply analytical person, my thoughts were consistently engaged by their questions and critiques of the inner workings of the human heart and mind. I thoroughly enjoyed the artists’ jabs and jokes, especially cracks at cultural experiences and social situations within and outside of the church, or those quick, spot-on observations of people in the crowd.

Many of us went (or are going) for enjoyment and community. I did. For some, you may share eerily similar experiences and may feel comforted. For others, their pieces may be the polar opposite to your own experiences and tastes. Wherever you are on the spectrum, your stories will never be exactly the same and that’s beautiful.

We learn from hearing others perspectives. We grow from popping our own bubbles and being challenged. We learn to think differently and, dare I say, more holistically about God and the world when we consider the experiences and opinions of others. Go to the PIA tour to learn, grow, and think differently. That’s been my experience every year.

Even if you’re not a crowd person, or not a regular spoken word connoisseur, if you go with those three things in mind, you’ll find that you might really enjoy it.