An early love of reading and writing with her mother led Cydnee A. Reese to poetry. Now poetry is leading Reese to an international poetry competition this March where she will represent Colorado Springs.
Reese will join nearly 100 of the best female-identified poets at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas, from March 15-18. She earned the spot at the event by winning the selection poetry slam in November hosted by Hear Here Poetry, the only Poetry Slam, Inc., recognized poetry slam in Colorado Springs.
Hear Here Poetry organizes monthly poetry events ranging from open mics and workshops to competitive poetry slams. The non-profit recently has won a national championship in group piece poetry and recently was recognized for it's service to the Pikes Peak arts community for its youth poetry efforts and community performances.
Reese, 21, who performs under the stage name Wanderer, will add the international competition to her already busy Spring as she is set to graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy and commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force as a pilot.
We caught up with Reese to get to know this up and coming poet.
How did you end up in Colorado Springs?
I'm originally from Arkansas, but grew up mostly in Kansas City, Missouri. I came to Colorado Springs to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy.
How long have you been writing poetry?
I grew up really loving to read and spent a lot of time reading with my mom. I eventually felt the need to try writing for myself. In elementary school I would write stories and very basic poetry and really enjoyed it. I didn’t get very serious about writing poetry specifically until junior high, and then, only as a secondary to songwriting. I consider my true poetry writing genesis to be when I discovered and took on performance poetry in 2013.
So, doing the math, if you started performing in 2013 you picked up the mic while at the Academy?
Yes. I was in my dorm room watching youtube videos one night and came across slam poetry and eventually performance (non-competition) poetry and fell in love. I could feel what these poets said even if it did not directly relate to me—and that moved me. I had just arrived at USAFA and was feeling overwhelmed by the tough academics and the trying lifestyle; and performance poetry emerged as an opportunity to express myself in environments that were simultaneously supportive and competitive, forcing me to hone my skills as an artist.
Why does this art form speak to you?
Performance poetry allows a poet to move and connect with the audience with a unique and genuine complexity. It is something that is felt. It is an experience. It can’t not speak to you!
Poetry is beautifully simple yet complex and it is whatever an individual experiencing it needs it to be at a given time. Performance poetry is unique because of the connection the poet can have with the audience. That is what I adore!
Poetry gives voice to those silenced, underrepresented and/or simply shy. It makes perceptions and stories available in order to reach people on a very personal and intimate level. I believe poetry is a key step in changing the world. Imagine how the world would be if more people paid any attention to poetry, to literature, to art. We would avoid so much of the trouble and destruction we have faced—so much of what we repeat. We will get there. We will reach people and cause progress and, eventually, change in the world.
What does representing Colorado Springs on a global stage mean to you?
My mom always used to tell me that in everything I do in life it is about so much more than just me. In high school it was that I represented my family, friends, church, school, any teams I was on, etc. at all times. Now when I act I represent even more various groups as I have grown and become involved with different people and organizations. Going to school in the Springs (USAF Academy, CO) makes me a part of this community and I take on that honor with pride every day and do my best to be a good—although visiting—representative of the city. I give a unique perspective to Colorado Springs because of my connection to the Academy and experiences because of it. I am proud and honored to be able to represent Colorado Springs on a global stage and I just pray I do justice to not only my work and my art, but to all whom/what I represent.
This event focuses on women's voices, how does the message of women's poetry affect you and how should it affect our community?
I think everyone’s voice is important and needs to be heard and it is beautiful that this is an event in which women speak. It is an honor to be able to use my art to give perception and insight based on my experiences and/or those of others. Women need to tell “the woman’s story” so that it is known from our perspective, but what I am most excited about is being able to give a woman’s voice to other issues in the world as well. Anything that happens in anyone’s world affects us—or at least should. I think we forget how connected we are as people regardless of our backgrounds, lifestyles, races, genders, or any other characteristics that people use as an excuse to divide us. As women, if our men struggle, we should care; as adults, if children are hurting, people need to know; as artists, if this world is beautiful, we have to share that. The more voices and perspectives we have telling various stories and perspectives, the more people start to take notice, begin to care and decide to act.
Learn more about Hear Here Poetry events on the group Facebook page and follow Hear Here on Twitter. Hear Here Poetry is a non-profit with many financial needs to support the poetry community in Colorado Springs including sending poets to events such as Women of the World Poetry Slam. To make a tax-deductible donation, please click here