Poetry and vulnerability are the topics of conversation today with my guest, Kira Calvaresi. I was so enamored with this young woman who hasn’t even graduated from college yet! Don’t let her youth fool you though. Kira is very wise beyond her years.

On the episode, we discuss the poetry scene in Orlando, how Kira got involved in poetry, and why you have to be so vulnerable when you choose to share your poetry. She even read a brand new poem on the episode that I think many women can relate to. We also discussed a project Kira is working on getting funding for to give poetry a more visual platform in the city. 

1. If you are scared but want to do something, find encouragement and help from others

Kira was drawn to writing from an early age. It helped her make sense of the world around her. As she became better at expressing herself, she developed a love of writing poetry.

She was introduced to spoken word poetry after watching a TED Talk by Sarah Kay. After being enamored with the talk, Kira sought out other spoken word poets on YouTube. This click hole on YouTube grew into a desire to perform her own spoken word poetry.

The first opportunity came along in college, for an open mic event. However, she was not confident enough to do it on her own, so she reached out to a friend and asked her to perform with Kira. Her friend agreed, and they developed a performance together.

“Find other people to help you and move forward in things that you care about. If you are feeling very weak in something. The act of reaching out can be so strong,” Kira told me.

After working on that first performance and getting on stage, Kira was hooked. She started doing more spoken word events on her own.

2. Escaping the wrong community led her to Orlando

Before attending UCF, Kira spent her first couple years of college at a small liberal arts school. Between getting sick with mono, being roofied, and sexual harassment issues, Kira knew the toxic environment the school had become was no longer the right place for her to be.

During this time of transition, Kira didn’t write for almost a year. “It was a period of my life where everything was chaotic and nothing made sense,” Kira told me about her time at the college. “I was so depressed I couldn’t even write about it.”

After she chose to move away, she decided to pursue a film degree. Because of scholarship opportunities and great film schools in Central Florida, Kira found herself accepted to the BFA in Film program at UCF and on her way to Orlando.

3. Finding the right community gave Kira energy and passion

Once in Orlando, however, Kira didn’t know anyone. So she looked up poetry open mics in Orlando and found the Austin’s Coffee open mic event. She went to the event at the first opportunity she could.

That first night at Austin’s, Kira was captivated with all the poets who performed. “It made a part of me feel alive that felt dead for a year,” Kira told me.

She met one of the poets after the show, and he encouraged her to come out and perform a poem the next night at a poetry slam event. While Kira had never performed in a poetry slam, he encouraged her to perform anyway. Because she had no material, Kira went home and wrote for the first time in over a year.

Kira told me she was lucky because, she “got thrust into this encouraging, invigorating, lively community that was all about sharing your story and how you felt about it.” Plus, slam poetry is all about performing poetry “in a way to make others feel connected to it.”

After that first event, Kira was hooked. She started going to every poetry event in Orlando that she could. Since she had no family or friends in Orlando, the poetry community became that for her. She loves that she has met many people of all ages and backgrounds through sharing her poetry and listening to other’s poetry.

4. We should celebrate poetry and storytelling

Kira is trying to get a project started in Orlando called “Slam the City,” where she would work with a local artist and local poets to build art installations around the city that will display local poets’ work.

“People want to hear the stories of the people who live here. They want to know what’s going on in their city. They want to know who is affected and want to help,” Kira said about why she wants to bring this project to Orlando. “People want to look at their neighbors and see where they’re strong and where they need help.”

They currently found funding to do one installation, but are looking for more to display more poetry across the city.

5. There’s power in storytelling and being vulnerable

“It’s so hard for people to be vulnerable sometimes,” Kira told me. However, she explained that “misunderstandings often come from the lack of vulnerability. You’re scared to share with someone the parts of you that hurt, so you shut down the communication and it causes more hurt.”

Alternatively, Kira stressed that when you empower people to be vulnerable and share their story, even when they’re scared, you give them power. You’re letting them know that you want to hear their story which, in turn, helps them share and ultimately feel better as they process that piece of them.

Kira told me she has experienced this first hand. She deals with a lot of anxiety, but she is able to manage it well because of her poetry and the ability to share such personal experiences with other people who encourage her and lift her up.

Kira explained that when people share their story with others, “there is so much vulnerability and strength. They’re showing you some of their weakest parts, but showing you is one of the strongest things they could do.” This is why the act of being vulnerable gives someone so much power.

With such an encouraging community that supports poetry in Orlando, Austin’s and other local poetry open mic nights are great places to get on stage without fearing you’re going to fail. However, “failure is not a bad thing if you learn from it,” Kira said.

Through it all, though, the audience will be on your side if you ever decide to get up and share at a poetry night, Kira told me. “You are doing something so brave by getting on stage, they can do nothing but accept that and encourage that.”

About Kira Calvaresi

Kira Calvaresi put everything she owned in a car, put the car on a train, and came to Florida with a need to make something of her time. She hosts an open mic every Wednesday at Austin’s Coffee & Film, is an award-winning spoken word and written poet, and will be representing the Orlando Safe Words poetry team this August at the National Poetry Slam. In between her commitment to poetic expression within her community and her BFA film classes at UCF, she does activist work around Orlando. She can be followed on Instagram @Kirainbows and @Wutsphotography. She can also be followed on Facebook @Kira Calvaresi, and her page for @WedOpenWords.

Links from the Show

Follow Kira’s Instagram @Kirainbows and @Wutsphotography
Friend her on Facebook
Follow on Facebook to keep up to date with Wednesday Open Words
Austin’s Coffee
Women of the World Poetry Slam
National Poetry Slam