Poetry may well be the purest form of artistic expression. The economy of words in a poem means that every one is selected with careful precision, and the right ones at the right time can uplift the soul and ease a troubled mind. Philadelphians now have access to the right words 24 hours a day, thanks to the efforts of our own poet laureate, Trapeta Mayson.
On the line
Mayson was inspired to create the Healing Verse Poetry Line in part due to her work as a social worker, and in part during a lunch with her predecessor, 2016’s poet laureate Yolanda Wisher. She believes in outside-the-box thinking in order to make art accessible and well executed for everyone, and the Healing Verse Poetry Line was born out of a need to remove the barriers around poetry. “The phone line is a bit of an equalizer in the era of Zoom,” Mayson says. “I know I’m not reaching everyone, but hopefully, the act of dialing in and listening to great poetry offers respite and a bit of nostalgia.”
Listeners have already reported a sense of relief at not having to use a virtual platform to access words of comfort and healing. A phone line has a sense of simplicity, and it’s easier and more intimate than a performance.
Poetry for the win
Mayson approaches art the same way she approaches her work in mental health: to work with intention and make arts and the community surrounding them accessible to everyone. “While this world is absolutely beautiful and abundant, people are suffering emotionally, physically, economically, spiritually, mentally, etc.," she says. "Stay the course, a pure heart will always win over any darkness.”
The conceit of the phone line is simple: users can dial in at any time and hear a short menu. Press 2 for upcoming events, 3 to access mental health resources in the city. Pressing 1 will connect the listener to the featured poem of the week, a 90-second recitation by the poet behind the piece. Mayson is also working with Project Manager Doriana Diaz to make the poetry line more accessible for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
While the poetry line has already started bridging connections in and around the city, Mayson intends for it to be a seed of an ever-increasing expansion of artistic expression. Writing Wellness workshops and public poetry installations at neighborhood branches of the Free Library are two forthcoming components of Healing Verse.
What, When, Where, and Accessibility
Trapeta B. Mayson, 2020-21 Philadelphia Poet Laureate, in conjunction with the Free Library of Philadelphia presents the Healing Verse Poetry Line toll-free at 1-855-763-6792 (1-855-POEMRX2). Listeners can dial in 24/7 to hear a 90-second poem, with new poems posted every Monday at 7am. The poetry line will be available throughout 2021.
Image Description 1: Trapeta Mayson is pictured, a Black woman, in a portrait. Her hair is shoulder-length, wearing a mauve-colored blouse, with a necklace and loop earrings.
Image Description 2: A promotional image with a spiral-wired phone against a yellow and orange background features the number, the slogan "Poems are healing, too," and copy that reads: Healing Verse Philly is supported by Kelly Writers House. The poet laureate program is managed by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Brought to you by Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson.