The Versify Podcast & Community Events project began in 2017 as a collaboration between Nashville Public Radio’s WPLN News station and the “Poetry on Demand” initiative by The Porch Writers’ Collective, a Nashville area non-profit. The podcast is hosted by Joshua Moore and puts everyday stories to verse. Part storytelling and part poetry, Versify begins by sending a team of poets and producers out into Nashville area neighborhoods and community events, where people are invited to share a story from their life with one of the Versify contracted poets.
Versify began with a focus on finding untold stories from a wide perspective of Middle Tennesseans. The community events and neighborhoods the poets visit impact a wide range of individuals from seniors to children, native Nashvillians to new comers, people of color and people with disabilities. Not only does this project amplify the voices of the community, it introduces poetry to individuals who have had limited exposure to such art. The range of community events has included Casa Azafran, a local community event and nonprofit collective serving immigrants, refugees and the community as a whole; Nashville Pride and the opening of a community farm by the Nashville Food Project in South Nashville, an event that allowed the team to speak with refugees and low-income individuals.
These community events have begun to include a robust education initiative. Versify acts as a tool for student engagement with an exposure to the art of storytelling through poetry. Entering the classroom and featuring these students in the podcast provides an opportunity to highlight the voices of Nashville’s youth, an often-unheard community. This expanded partnership allows the potential for training interested students to join the Versify team and assist at future community events in the future.
Ongoing feedback and dialogue with the community led to a focus on speaking with Nashville Freedom Riders and a new partnership with Choral Arts Link (a local youth chorus that focuses on providing children the opportunity to develop leadership skills, to enhance their education and to grow artistically and professionally). This allowed Versify to focus exclusively on speaking with four Nashville Freedom Riders and two contemporary Nashvillians about the impact and legacy of the Nashville sit-ins and the freedom rides. Through these events and the subsequent podcast episodes which are currently being released, Versify is spreading awareness of the historical impact of Nashville’s Black community on affecting social and political change.