As she walked into Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library on an overcast day, JC Wayne’s presence was unmistakable. She exudes cool, she moves with confidence, she beams a smile.

Wayne is a poet, artist and resident of Vermont who has started a handful of engaging and accessible poetry and art programs, that people of all ages and from all walks of life can get involved in, around Shelburne, Charlotte and throughout Chittenden County.

Would you call yourself a poet? Have you studied poetry? Can you rattle off eight forms of poetry and the rules and regulations that one must know in order to create successful poetry?

The answer for the large majority of people is no – poetry can feel intimidating and inaccessible.

Wayne does not think knowing these ins and outs is essential to being able to engage with poetry. She said she wants to create a space where people can “play.”

One of her programs is called Voicing Art, part of The Poartry Project, based in Shelburne and Charlotte.

Taking place every other month, participants have the month to view an exhibit displayed at Burlington’s Flynndog Gallery, and write a poem based on or inspired by any piece in the exhibit. This process of writing vividly about a work of art is called ekphrastic poetry.

While Wayne encourages participants to really get there in person, anyone can get involved regardless of location, and there are participants all over the world, as Wayne photographs the exhibit and uploads it as a virtual gallery.

An every-other-month event at Nomad Coffee in Burlington brings together congregation of people who have written poetry, and people who just want to hear poetry, meeting together to read their work aloud.

Wayne touched on the topic of critique, saying her goal is to create “loving worlds through loving words.” These spaces are not ones for criticism, but rather for anyone with any level of experience – including none – to write and share and feel safe.

Wayne has studied poetry and experienced the formal world of poetry, and said she loves working in settings with people who are new to poetry. Those who can let their walls down, “playing with nature” and words, outside of the sometimes-intimidating world of formal poetry education.

Another of the myriad events Wayne facilitates is called Plein Air Walks, which have taken place at Leddy Park and the Ethan Allen Homestead.

These, too, are open to people of all ages – kids to senior citizens can join her on walks through the outdoors and create poetry with the help of prompts. For example, only using scent or taste to write a poem based on the present setting.

Wayne is organizing Plein Air Walks in other inspiring nature areas within our communities, as there are so many beautiful nature walks to be found in and surrounding Shelburne, Charlotte, and South Burlington.

She also leads poetry activities at the King Street Center, with kids around the ages of five–eight, working with nature as inspiration for kids from all walks of life to feel excited about creating poetry, sometimes together, with phrases from all different kids to form one poem.

While talking about all these projects and ideas, Wayne was passionately engaged in describing specific people she has met, and the ways she has seen poetry affect participants, and the new ways she plans to grow and develop these events to make them even more accessible and interactive.

In describing why she does what she does, JC called upon the “power and relevance” of poetry right now.

She said, “words matter.”

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