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Central Standard

Glenn North: Fostering Raw Self-Expression At 18th And Vine

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Terance Williams
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When Glenn North read a poem at the grand opening for the American Jazz Museum in 1997, something clicked.

From that moment on, the poet and the museum grew in tandem.  In 2004, North officially joined the museum's staff, establishing a nationally recognized spoken word scene at the museum's Blue Room.

North recently left his post as education manager and poet-in-residence. He plans to finish his master's degree and focus on his poetry.

Upon his departure, Central Standard invited him to sit down for a talk. Among the highlights:

On 18th and Vine:

  • "The vibrancy that everybody anticipated wasn't a microwave kind of thing, it's probably more of a slow boil ... I became very protective in terms of helping people to understand that we do do a lot and there's a lot to be celebrated."
  • "There has to be a real campaign to deal with the perception ... we have to figure out a way to make the community believe in the institution. And then we have to figure out a way to anchor businesses in the district ... The museum is the cultural institution that kind of anchors things, but there needs to be a financial anchor."

Glenn North reading Rudyard Kipling's "If," which his grandmother "tricked" him into memorizing at age 8:

Rudyard_Kipling_If.mp3

On spoken word:

  • "I've seen it heal. There are stories that I can tell ... The most profound was with Brandon Bushnell Smith ... Brandon watched his best friend fall over dead in his lap. Brandon got shot in the spine, the bullet is still there. That was right before we were planning on going to Brave New Voices ... he decided he wanted to write a poem about that experience... although we didn't win, we beat the team from New York, which was a victory because they're like a machine. It was like the Royals playing the Yankees."

Video of Glenn North reading WBLK:

People don't make cameos in news stories; the human story is the story, with characters affected by news events, not defined by them. As a columnist and podcaster, I want to acknowledge what it feels like to live through this time in Kansas City, one vantage point at a time. Together, these weekly vignettes form a collage of daily life in Kansas City as it changes in some ways, and stubbornly resists change in others. You can follow me on Twitter @GinaKCUR or email me at gina@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.
Sylvia Maria Gross is storytelling editor at KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @pubradiosly.