Group spotlight on spoken word poetry collective Soul Scribes

Founded by Dartmouth students in 2004, Soul Scribes is part performance group, part workshop space for poets and writers on the Dartmouth campus

by Jordan McDonald | 10/3/17 12:08am

Every Sunday at approximately 9 p.m. a group of creative, artistically-minded students meets in Collis Center 301.

Founded by Dartmouth students in 2004, Soul Scribes is part performance group, part workshop space for poets and writers on the Dartmouth campus. In the past members have performed in venues around campus, competed in collegiate slam competitions and hosted professional poets to perform on campus.

In his spoken word poem, “Complainers,” critically-acclaimed poet Rudy Francisco said: “the human heart beats approximately 4,000 times per hour, and each pulse, each throb, each palpitation is a trophy engraved with the words ‘you are still alive.’ You are still alive. Act like it.”

Soul Scribes is committed to exploring what it means to be alive and “act like it” through mediums like performance and spoken word.

President of Soul Scribes Celeste Jennings ’18, who joined the group her freshman year, emphasized the openness of the group to new members and different forms of expression.

“We usually have new members every meeting, which is really fun and cool,” Jennings said. “Anyone can join us and just come write. You don’t have to consider yourself a writer.”

Chiemeka Njoku ’18, the vice president of Soul Scribes, reiterated the group’s inclusiveness of new members. She joined the group during her freshman fall and described its composition as “fluid” and “porous.”

Due to the ever-changing membership courtesy of the D-plan, Soul Scribes operates under a flexible leadership system, Jennings explained.

“Per term, we have different leadership roles,” Jennings said. “We try to be really collaborative with it. Even though I’m the president, the [vice president] can do stuff that I would normally do. I try to help the secretary. Anyone can take on that role as we go in and out during the year.”

Soul Scribes meetings typically consist of group check-ins, discussions, writing time and opportunities to share new work.

“You can share — you don’t have to share,” Jennings said. “Whatever people are comfortable with. It’s an opportunity for people to workshop their pieces.”

In terms of major goals for the group moving forward, Soul Scribes has high hopes for how the group will evolve and continue to represent the arts on Dartmouth’s campus and beyond.

“We’re trying to become a more cohesive group as well as work on our artistry,” Njoku said. “We’re trying to have more events that are exclusively us.”

There are no auditions for Soul Scribes and the group is primarily focused on cultivating self-expression through spoken word poetry.

“We’re very open,” Raven Johnson ’18 said. “I tell people all the time: ‘Come to Soul Scribes! Learn how to be yourself and write and be with people who also like to write’ ... We’re just a group of people who may or may not be activists, who may or may not be entertainers, just doing what we feel.”

In 2015, Soul Scribes co-sponsored an event featuring award-winning slam poetry duo Dominique Christina and Denice Frohman.

As far as dream guests are concerned, the Strivers Row, a group comprised of spoken word poets and other artists, is a major inspiration to Soul Scribes’ members.

“I love everyone in there,” Njoku said. “Any single person from there or any combination of them would be my dream.”

Jennings mentioned Miles Hodges as another dream guest, referencing a Strivers Row poet.

Johnson expressed an interest in bringing other collegiate poets to Dartmouth’s campus.

“I think having another collegiate group come up would be really fun,” Johnson said.

Overall, while the group has competed in slam-poetry competitions such as the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in years past, artistry comes first and foremost for Soul Scribes this term.

“We just want to create a safe space where we can share our feelings with other people and create empathy,” Jennings said.