Donnie Welch Poetry
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Donnie Welch Poetry

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | INDIE
Band Spoken Word Comedy


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"Q&A: The Natural Progression of Poetry with Donnie Welch ’14"

In an age where a “messenger” is a texting application, a letter is e-mail, and visiting a friend takes a day rather than six months, poetry could be seen as an antiquated art form. Donald Welch, better known as Donnie, a twenty-year-old junior at Emerson College, is living proof that poetry can not only be modern, but can fit our fast-paced world. A Writing, Literature, and Publishing major with a knack for poetry and an eagerness to share, he let me in on his story. Since high school in North Carolina, he has accumulated a unique view of who he is as a poet and what he wishes to do with his gift. The past two summers, Donnie took his craft on the road. On separate tours, he performed along the East Coast (The Splendid Little Tour) and in North Carolina (The Mountain to Sea Tour). His words speak for themself.

Q. When did you start your craft?

A. I really started getting into poetry junior year of high school. That’s when I started going to slams and open mics.

Q. Did a specific person get you into poetry?

A. Well, in a way. I started trying to write songs, but I was horrible at it. I couldn’t keep within a tempo. I was getting frustrated, and I ended up visiting my brother in Ashville. My brother was a break-dancer there. He took me to a break/rave/poetry slam event, and that was the first time I had ever seen slam poetry, if you will. Seeing poetry performed there made me want to experiment with it.

Q. Did your brother push you to perform poetry?

A. Indirectly he introduced me to slam poetry. I was nudged in other ways. The first time I performed was at Darfurfest in Davidson, North Carolina. I met David McDunna who, at the time, was starting an open mic in town. He invited me to co-host it. I said yes, and we ended up running a poetry night at Three Goats Coffee.

Q. Do you define yourself as a slam poet or a poet?

A. People make the distinction between a slam poet and a poet, but I don’t see the difference. The way we live is extremely fast paced; no one will sit down and read a poem anymore. If I present a concise three-minute poem, it is usually heard. For poetry as an art form to stay popular and survive, slam poetry is the natural progression.

Q. Did you have a goal in mind when you started in high school?

A. Not really. It was something I was doing because I was passionate about it. I wanted to pursue it and see where I ended up with it.

Q. When you started performing did you feel insecure about becoming a poet?

A. I was a little wary of it at first. It never really occurred to me that it was something I could pursue as a serious art form. Previously, I was infatuated with science. I still am, but I never thought I would be at school to become a writer. I never took it seriously until the second half of my senior year when something clicked.

Q. What was it like going on tour for the first time?

A. “The Splendid Little Tour” I did two summers ago with my friend Tyler Bryant. We performed in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire in the span of ten days. It was like a mad-dash. As much as it was an adventure it was a serious learning experience. I self-produce for my tours, and learning to do that while performing was a hectic and crazy process. On top of that, actually doing the traveling was absurd. It was more of an adventure than whatever it is you are supposed to accomplish on a tour.

Q. Was the tour experience any different this summer?

A. The “Mountain to Sea Tour” followed part of the Mountain to Sea Trail in North Carolina. I toured with a singer songwriter, Fountainpenn. We did a five-show run. I was much better prepared for this tour. I made merchandise and budgeted well.

Q. Was there a favorite moment while on tour?

A. On “The Splendid Little Tour” the first show we did was in Burlington, Vermont. It sucked; we were having a downer day. We had driven three hours there and were heading three hours to our next destination. As we left there was a mountain range and a lake on the outskirts of Burlington and we hit it right at sunset. It put everything in perspective. It was a cool and refreshing moment.

Q. Do you have a stage name?

A. No. As a poet, especially as a performance poet, I have to be genuine. Poetry is such an exposing art form you have to be yourself.

Q. Do you want to continue touring?

A. That’s all I want to do. It’s either that or a cardboard box. I think it’s awesome. I am currently setting one up. The plan is to start in North Carolina and travel to D.C. and then wrap around to Nashville. It’s a rush that is hard to explain. You’re not only traveling, but you’re traveling with a purpose. You’re literally going somewhere with your art. It’s a surreal and exhilarating experience.

Q. How has Emerson College help you grow?

A. Emerson is a place where you can make what you want out of it. I have met many awesome people here. I’ve met people who are into audio and video that are going to help me make videos. I’ve met other poets who continue to help me grow in my writing. Through Emerson I went to CUPSI, the nationals for college poetry. I was flown out to LA and Detroit two places I, otherwise, wouldn’t have traveled to.

Q. What is your definition of poetry today?

A. I like to think of my poetry as a means of empowering people through words. I know it sounds altruistic, but it’s true. Those who are good with words usually use their power for politics or marketing. These types of jobs act as a means to actively manipulate people. I like to see my poetry as a counteraction to that. I want to remind people that they can think for themselves. Poetry has a lot of power. I don’t think people realize it.

By Tina Boszik

Check out more on Donnie Welch, where he is playing and what he is up to! - EmMag

"Boston Brings Opportunity To Life Through “Speak The Change” at Emerson College"

On one of the first days of my internship with Be the Change, Inc. I was given the wonderful task of organizing a spoken word event that combined poetry performances with a group discussion around the topics of jobs and economic opportunity. “Speak the Change” was the title that first came to mind, and it stuck. Dialogue is, after all, one of the best ways to generate ideas as a collective, and we must often speak the change we want to see in the world before we can be it.

After a few months of collaborating with active peers on the Emerson and Berklee College campuses, and with much support from the Opportunity Nation staff, Speak the Change: A Poetry Town Hall took place at Emerson’s Bill Bordy Theater in downtown Boston on Friday evening, May 4th. The event began with an intro by Opportunity Nation’s Justin Kang, followed by a section of original poetry performances that were both humbling in their honest descriptions of different shortages of opportunity in the country, and empowering in their calls for our Millennial generation to think differently, and make change. The poets were Donnie Welch and Kristen Parker of Emerson College, and Emmett Ceglia and Kat Hamilton of Berklee College of Music. Topics such as growing up, social media, sexuality, faith, poverty and unemployment were highlighted in the performances, generating both ample laughs and somber reflection from the audience, with a general theme of hope.

After a few moments of profound appreciation for the poetry, the group of about twenty-five participants ranging from students to Emerson Professor Dr. Phillip Glenn to Massachusetts State Representative Dan Winslow, circled up to discuss the performances. The group had a rich and fluent dialogue about jobs and opportunity in Boston, the importance of education and valuing educators who inspire their students, and our responsibility as young people to use our skills to foster positive change.

The event was a great success and ignited a flame in all of us to do what we love, always give back to the communities we came from, and work to create opportunity for ourselves and those generations on the way. - Opportunity Nation

"Rhapsodists rally in Atomic Age Theater's poetry slam"

With a mix of conversational smooth-talking and fast-paced tongue twisters, sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major Donnie Welch, captivated the audience to win a poetry slam hosted by Atomic Age Theater.

Atomic Age Theater held the competition for Emerson’s rhapsodists last Thursday in the Little Building Cabaret. Welch split the stage with eight other poets. Three tables judged the event: one table with members from Atomic Age Theater, and two other tables chosen randomly by the panel. Some of the performers, including Welch, Tiernan Cahil, Bobby Crawford, and Brenna Kleiman are also part of the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational team that will be traveling to compete in California in mid-April.

Kleiman said the CUPSI team described Welch as the “heartbreaker” poet — a quality he showed off in his first slam of the evening. He compared himself to his ex-girlfriend’s high school math textbook.

“The spine is torn, loose, wrinkled,” Welch recited.

Welch said he always gets nervous before a performance.

“As a poet you have to own the stage while being totally vulnerable,” said Welch in an interview. Not everyone can handle the instant scoring and audience criticism of slams, but Welch said he can’t imagine a life without poetry.

Kleiman agreed that it takes a certain strength to handle events like these.

“It’s enjoyable showing off in front of people,” the freshman writing, literature and publishing major said in an interview. “You need more courage than in forensics and acting because it is your words that you’re interpreting for an audience.”

Kleiman slammed about relationships among the gods and goddesses. Her confession, “I keep confusing the taste of the ocean with the taste of you,” stuck out as one of the night’s most memorable lines.

She described her poetry as having a storytelling element that is usually emotional. She said her CUPSI teammates describe her as the “sad poem girl,” because her verse is so personal.

After round one, the competition narrowed down to four: Welch, Cahil, Andrew Asper and Alexandra Yep.

Cahil, senior political communications major and another CUPSI member, spoke of his hometown school run by oil companies.

“I am a byproduct of your dark flowing desires,” he said . He spoke with sharp diction and at times walked away from the microphone relying on his strong voice.

In another poem, Cahil discussed love and historic events.

“Some may say I’m mad with love,” he said. “But people like that have nothing to learn from history.”

He describes his poetry as “nostalgic.” He said that he thinks every generation longs for youth, which makes his poetry relatable.

In Welch’s final poem of the night (and his highest-scoring), he chastised his neighbors for calling his uncle with schizophrenia “retarded” when he was younger.

“Just because someone is mentally ill does not mean they’re handicapped,” he emphasized passionately, sending the audience into a frenzy of cheers and applause. He urged the audience to celebrate shortcomings and “find friends by the decibel of their laughter.” - Berkley Beacon

"Donnie Welch speaks love at poetry slam"

Donnie Welch took the stage and spoke methodically into the microphone. His words told of love: Unrequited love, love for others, and, occasionally, science.

At Emerson Shakespeare Society’s Feb. 10 event “Speak Low If You Speak Love,” poems came to life as visual artist Zoe Fisk illustrated what he saw in Welch’s work.

The poem “Storytelling” originated as a high school love poem, and explores his inner feelings about an old crush.

“Hey you, love me if you want to, hate me if you have to,” recited Welch, a sophomore writing, literature, and publishing major.

Welch spat his poems as Fisk, a junior at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, squatted on stage left, drawing images inspired by Welch’s words on three taped-together pieces of printing paper. As Welch uttered “Keep a song constantly playing in your mind,” Fisk’s Sharpie markers squiggled a cornucopia of colors within a caricature’s head.

By the end of the performance, the piece was a hodgepodge of different characters and objects from the poems — it even included a picture of Welch with his beanbag hat and north face sweatshirt.

“Poetry is based in imagery ... I just physically represent [Donnie’s poems],” said Fisk.

The Emerson Shakespeare Society presented the show, a preview of Welch and Fisk’s upcoming Tall Tales Tour, which will take them from Boston to New Orleans.

“We wanted to help out Donnie and give him an opportunity to preview his tour,” said Alex Ates, a junior and both President and Artistic Director for Shakespeare Society.

Welch is no stranger to the road — he performed this past summer along the east coast in coffee houses and bookstores on the Splendid Little Tour with his singer/songwriter friend Jack Rabbitt.

In a departure from the night’s theme of love, Bobby Crawford, a sophomore studying creative writing, took the stage for a duo performance with Welch. The two relayed a memorized mid-term project for a science class about genetics, in which they fought over who has the better genes.

“Male pattern baldness,” slammed Welch.

“Recessive,” said Crawford, “head full of long curly hair.”

“Dominant,” said Welch, “intelligence” — followed by an awkward, exchanged glance that set the audience into a burst of laughter at this upbeat break, which followed more serious poems.

Both Welch and Crawford take part in the Emerson Poetry Project and qualified to go to CUPSI (College Union Poetry Slam Invitation) where they will be traveling to La Verne University in California this upcoming April.

“It’s fun to compete against each other,” said Crawford. “Donnie is a good influence.”

Even though Welch has come a long way with slam poetry from when he first started in his junior year of high school, he still believes he has a lot to learn. He hopes to continue doing slam poetry as a profession after he graduates college.

“I think poetry has a lot more potential than people give credit about it,” said Welch. “It’s not just 8th grade literature; it has a lot of power and has the capacity to do a lot more. People will catch up on that … I guess I will try to make it happen.” - Berkley Beacon


Still working on that hot first release.



Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina (over the summer), Donnie has performed all along the east coast and the mid-west. During the summer of 2011, Donnie went on the Splendid Little Tour with Jack Rabbitt, playing in dozens of locations such as the Radio Bean in Burlington, Vermont, and Platterpus Too Records in Easthampton, Massachusetts. He has performed at Darfurfest in Davidson, North Carolina, the Lake Eden Arts Festival, the University of Michigan, the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, is a member of Emerson College’s CUPSI team and has much more to come. With his unusual poetic perspective, Donnie has slowly grown a fan base that identifies with his work and his belief in the potential of poetry. Avoiding pretension or elitism, his work aspires to be uplifting, simple, impassioned, and intimate without melodrama or condescension.