On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.
Meet Scott Woods:
Performer to showcase poetry inspired by social issues
by: Cheryl Forcina
The written word, performance art and activism have been connected for as long as there’s been social upheaval. And present day is no exception. A Columbus poet has continued that practice for years, and will share his experiences and work on stage.
Scott Woods knows what audiences want. And what they want, Woods claims, is a performance.
“Anytime someone is sharing a poem, it’s a performance,” the author said. “And somewhere in the back of the audience’s mind, that’s what they’re lookin for.”
Woods is well aware. In 2006, inside a Short North warehouse where cutting-edge Acme Art Co. once resided, he became the first to complete a 24-hour poetry reading—solo, and without repeating a single poem. Toward the home stretch, the crowd swelled, hoping to “watch the wreck,” Woods said, describing his own condition after such a long spell without food or coffee.
“By the time the end rolled around, I’d caught my third wind,” he joked.
Now long gone, the Acme Art Co.’s spirit of alternative mediums and activism made the gallery a perfect match for Woods’ feat and writings rooted in social justice. One issue he contends with: gentrification.
“Columbus has heaping amounts of (gentrification),” Woods said. “The city has developed itself to the point of cultural extinction.”
He points to Columbus’ South Side where he grew up. In a poem titled “The Livingston Avenue Suite,” from his 2016 anthology Urban Contemporary History Month, Woods remembers a street different than the one now undergoing development.
“I wanted to write a single poem that was as long as the street,” he explained. Like a walking tour, “the points of interest run east to west and pop up in the poem where they’re supposed to. These are lives; these are people; it was important for me to put it on record.”
Which is something the author has always done. “(Poetry has) always been something that was there,” he recalled. “I’ve always written it and it stuck.” Especially when Woods began giving open mic readings in his mid-20s.
Now 47, he thinks poetry’s broad reach—thanks to technology—is “a beautiful thing.” That audience has found Woods’ work in several books, on NPR, through a poetry series he co-founded and the nonprofit organization Poetry Slam, of which he was a former president, among other achievements.
But when it comes to his city’s own prospects, there’s one thing he hopes for most. “(Columbus) is still looking for an identity. I’d hope that one day, Columbus finds what it’s looking for,” Woods said. “I hope I’m alive to see it because what it has isn’t the answer.”
Scott Woods is a poet and author born in Louisiana and raised in Columbus, where he still resides. An accomplished writer and performer, Woods works at The Columbus Metropolitan Library and believes that libraries are “the second-greatest invention of mankind ever.” (The first, he says, is music.) He also is a horror movie buff and counts John Carpenter’s The Thing as a favorite.