This week, Campus Philly had the opportunity to speak with Emily “Visionary the Poet” Doñe. A current Temple Law student and dynamic poet, Visionary is curating the first-of-its-kind poetry conference in Philadelphia, the Stretch My Stanzas Poetry Summit, coming to Philly this summer on June 9-11, 2023.
Keep reading to learn more about Visionary the Poet, the SMS Poetry Summit, and how YOU can score discounted tickets to this immersive experience.
We’re so excited to connect with you today. First off: Introduce yourself to our community.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a lover of words. I am deeply fascinated by the way that words paint stories and cultivate connection. Poetry is my love language. As such, I speak it often and fluently.
Prior to becoming a full-time poet, I was a high school English teacher for about six years. My experience as an educator will always be the biggest part of my story. This is largely because children have a magical way of helping us to rewrite our narratives. They remind us of how quickly life passes. They teach us not to take ourselves so seriously. They prompt us to be present. No matter how well-planned you are as a teacher, children will always provide you with reasons to change course. In this way, my former students have taught me more than I could have ever taught them. They taught me the power of adaptability.
Today, I’m an award-winning poet and legal scholar, who believes that art is one of the most powerful forms of activism there is. Art heals. Art nurtures. Art inspires. But most importantly, art empowers. Art has landed me on stages that my imagination would have never. As an aspiring entertainment lawyer, my hope is to advocate for clients who—like myself—want their art to land them in foreign places.
That’s incredible. Tell us a little more about your background—are you from the Philly region?
I’m a North Jersey native who landed in this city on my endeavor to ascertain my law degree. My creative ecosystem was born at REC Philly, where I was empowered to give in to my wildest dreams. There, I was able to grow within a community of creatives who not only think like me, but also dare to invest in the manifestation of those very thoughts.
Most importantly, though, I showed up. I went to panel discussions of interest. I asked questions. I shook hands. When I needed a product or a service, I sought out local brands and creatives first. I performed at every open mic that I possibly could.
I love Philly for the way that it refuses to reduce itself to one definition. It is Philly cheesesteaks and fine dining. It is Tesla charging stations and bike racks. It is potholes angry enough to swallow rush hour traffic but also forgiving enough to make room for dirt bikes. It is Marc Lamont Hill lacing his suit in Kendrick Lamar lyrics just before professor pimping the butterflies of Temple students’ minds. It’s the way that North Philly sidewalks outlined in chalk still paint [M]ural [A]rts and [S]pring [G]ardens. Only Philly folks are gonna catch that one, haha.
Beyond that, this city is the first city that embraced all of me. From the legal aspect, I couldn’t ask for a better community than the one I have at Temple Law. From the creative aspect, Philly was literally the soil that I bloomed from. This is home.
How did you decide to pursue your next step at Temple, and what are you studying?
I chose Temple Law for its strong reputation in trial advocacy since I ultimately want to be a litigator. Temple offers a myriad of practical training, such that our graduates often leave prepared to zealously advocate for clients in the real world. At Temple, I have already tried an abundance of simulated cases, completed many simulated negotiations, and am even currently representing small business clients by way of the Temple SBDC. As I eagerly prepare for graduation, I truly cannot say enough great things about my educational experience.
That’s wonderful. Tell us more about your background in poetry.
I am a self-taught poet who first picked up a pencil after watching my college friend, Rabiyatu Jalloh, perform at Penn State. I was so captivated by her performance that I dove headfirst into the exploration of poetry. I searched for tips on Google, YouTube, and within the metaphors of poets who I’d grown to adore.
I started performing about three years ago, although admittedly, I wasn’t very good. My first ever performance was in Newark, NJ. To this day, I’m not sure if all the support I received was because they liked it or if they liked me. Regardless, that support fueled me. I wrote as often as I read. I recited as often as I watched.
Two years ago, REC Philly offered me my first paid gig. The rest was history. Getting paid to do what you love is a different type of fuel. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to do it at a higher level. I wanted to become a master of my craft.
It has been a year since I’ve transitioned into a full-time poet. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with brands like TEDx, T-Mobile, REC Philly, Wawa, Ernst & Young, Swarthmore College, Jack & Jill of America, Rutgers University, and so many more.
How did you discover your talent?
From the time that I was old enough to formulate coherent sentences, I was told that I was “good with my words.” My teachers were always impressed by my propensity for writing. I never saw it as a talent though, until I discovered spoken word poetry. I became mesmerized by the marriage of cadence and wordplay. It’s when I realized the thing that comes natural to me, is art. In this way, I discovered my talent in others.
It’s a part of the reason I endeavored to curate the SMS Poetry Summit, a 3-day immersive experience designed specifically with writers and poets in mind. Often times, people don’t know what they’re capable of until they see real-life examples of it.
The SMS Poetry Summit sounds amazing. How did the event come together? Who are you partnering with to make this happen?
It started as an idea. Like many of us, I kept seeing social media hype around festivals like SXSW, Art Basel, Coachella, and Culture Con. Each of these incredibly dope events cater to different pockets of creators and lovers of art. I thought to myself “there’s gotta be a space like this for poets.”
I searched tirelessly because at that point, I longed for a space to network with similarly situated poets, while also acquiring the type of business acumen that could help me scale to the next level. I searched high and low, but I couldn’t find any. Disappointed, I gave up.
Poets deserve to dream just as loudly as other artists. And so I dreamt.
I dreamt of a large and immersive poetry festival that masterfully blends entertainment and education. I dreamt of arming poets with knowledge, inspiration, and meaningful connections. I shared my dream with some of the most well-regarded artists and experience curators in the city, and one by one, they became the team that I now stand behind. We are Greg Corbin, Emily “Visionary The Poet” Doñe, Taj “Tsleeveless” Lewis, Victoria “Lady Vic” Mendoza, Taylor Nickens, Melvin Powell, Nicole Raglan, Thierra Walker. We call ourselves the dream team (pun intended).
So far, we’ve partnered with Ernst & Young, Better Civics, Artsi Philly, Black Soul Summer, REC Philly, and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to bring this vision to life.
Can you give us an overview of what attendees will experience at the Poetry Summit?
On Day 1, we’ll kick off the summit with a private welcome reception and concert at REC Philly for our VIP ticketholders.
On Day 2, we’ll have our first full day of programming. Attendees will experience jaw-dropping live performances, panel discussions, workshops, activations, networking, and a poetry-after-dark open mic experience. The panels will range from intellectual property and book writing to social
media algorithms and monetization for poets. The workshops will focus on three things: writing to captivate, performance, and free flow wellness writing.
On Day 3, we’ll wrap up with more jaw-dropping performances, panel discussions, and a cash prize poetry slam.
Who will be performing and what’s the lineup?
Our Day 1 headliner is Londrelle Hall. Londrelle is a London-based author, poet, musician, and mindful influencer. Our Day 2 highlight performers include the iconic Steven Willis and Philadelphia legend Just Mike The Poet. Our Day 2 highlight speakers include Michell C. Clark and Philly’s own Will Toms. Our Day 3 headliner is currently a secret. We’ll be revealing her soon! Stay tuned.
What are you most excited for in this space?
I’m most excited to advance the richness of the art. For years, the creative scene has been oozing with art and music festivals, but that same enthusiasm has been missing for the poetry community. Poets deserve to dream just as loudly as other artists.
By arming poets with the tools to not only elevate their craft, but also to monetize from it, we can shift the culture.
What’s more, poetry often exists in subdivisions (open mic, slam poetry, poetry readings, etc.). Naturally, this leads to racial divides. I’m excited to curate an event where all aspects of poetry are celebrated in one space.
Why should students, recent grads, and young professionals attend the SMS Poetry Summit?
Poetry is more visible than it has ever been. We are celebrated on presidential inauguration stages, in TV shows like “America’s Got Talent,” on bookshelves in the form of national best sellers, and for the first time in history—at the Grammys!
Further, post-pandemic trends continue to suggest a continued rise in entrepreneurship. The time is now. Artists have Art Basel. Musicians have SXSW. Poets have us.
Plus, we are offering a 20% discount for the Campus Philly community! Use the code “CAMPUSPHILLY20” at checkout to activate your discount. Please note that you’ll need to show a valid college ID upon entrance.
OK, last question: What’s your advice to folks looking to grow in the creative space? Where should they start?
Start literally anywhere. Too many of us are waiting for the perfect moment to get started. There will never be a perfect time or a perfect moment. Do it anyways. Do it scared. Do it broke. Just do. Post the content. Go to that event. Ask that question. Pitch that idea. You learn the most by doing.
Fail. As the saying goes, in order to get something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done. You will never be perfect at something you’re doing for the first time. Be gracious with yourself. Welcome failure. Failure is feedback. If you’re not failing, you haven’t stepped out of your comfort zone. If you’re not failing, you’re not dreaming big enough.
Be consistent. Consistency is the cheat code. It’s the thing that’ll set you apart from most.