Valpo welcomes poet, spoken word artist

Guest speaker Katie Wirsing sharing her experiences through storytelling. The UPC-sponsored event took place in the Community Room of the Christopher Center.

Spoken Word poet Katie Wirsing visited Valparaiso University on Tuesday to share a new perspective and her life experiences through her poetry and storytelling.

Wirsing shared her fears, her past, her triumphs and her sorrows with Valpo students, something she does not ordinarily do at every Spoken Word event.

“I only talk about my dad when my heart feels like it’s in a safe place,” Wirsing said.

The loss of Wirsing’s father earlier this year drove her to write new poetry exploring what grief feels like.

She told stories of her family, which became a recurring theme in her poems. Wirsing explained that she did not always talk about her family at the start of her poetry career.

“I wasn’t writing super honestly,” Wirsing said. “I was writing what I thought would be good to write about. But it is better to be honest than to be liked.”

The poet is ranked as No. 13 in the nation for her art, which is a tremendous accomplishment, according to Wirsing. Poetry was always a passion, but only turned into a career in her mid-20s. Wirsing has also worked as a tap dance instructor, a waitress and a preschool teacher.

In her free time, Wirsing helps facilitate writing workshops for youths. The origins and the meaning of home are Wirsing’s favorite topics to explore with kids.

“We want to give young folks a chance to express themselves,” Wirsing said. “Home takes on so many meanings. Sometimes home is your family, your room or your bed.”

While Wirsing’s works were often emotional for her and the crowd, she also discussed her personal life and growing up as a homosexual female in a conservative family.

Wirsing attributed many of her life’s mistakes to what she called “FOMO.”

“Y’all know what FOMO is?” Wirsing said. “Fear of missing out. It’s like YOLO, but with more anxiety.”

The poet also used comedy to talk about the painful aspects of being a homosexual teenager. Her willingness to share her private struggles and use them to entertain impressed students like Nicole Lambert. Lambert came to the event ready for a new experience and she was not disappointed.

“It was my first time seeing Spoken Word in person and it was beyond awesome,” Lambert said. “Halfway through, I wanted to look up more slam poetry. It makes people so vulnerable, this type of poetry lends itself to that.”

Lambert was not the only member of the audience surprised at Wirsing’s talent.

Zachary Gronewold, Showbiz Chair of the University Programming Council, ran the Spoken Word event. Although he had previously been familiar with Spoken Word poetry, Gronewold said that Wirsing was a surprise.

“I came into this without a preconceived idea of what it would be like it and I was really satisfied,” Gronewold said.

Wirsing is the first of many Spoken Word poets that may visit Valpo’s campus in the upcoming semesters. In fact, UPC already has another poet lined up that comes with high reviews.

“I saw our next Spoken Word artist who is coming next semester,” Gronewold said. “She got a standing ovation from the entire Detroit Lions stadium.”

Contact Camille Granberry at torch@valpo.edu.

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