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TWIO has been featuring poetry and prose for 25 years

Jilly Hinckley-Noble has been writing poetry since she was five years old.

TWIO has been featuring poetry and prose for 25 years
April 27
19:05 2022

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

In 1996 Jilly Hinckley-Noble attended her first poetry slam held at Pinnie Universitie. Jilly had been writing poetry since she was five or six years old, but listening to the poems at the slam opened her eyes to another side of poetry. “The slam got me so excited that I went to the library and started checking out poetry books.” 

During her frequent visits to the Forsyth County Public Library, Jilly became acquainted with Bob Shar, the humanities librarian. For National Poetry Month in 1997, he brought in five episodes of “The United States of Poetry,” a series that hadn’t even been shown on PBS yet, and showed an episode every Tuesday evening during the month of April. After the last episode was shown, an open mic was held and it was a huge success. The series attracted a large number of participants eager to learn more and to share their work.

The next month, in May, Bob said to Jilly that it sure would be nice to continue the open mic, but someone would have to volunteer to coordinate it at the library. Without any hesitation, Jilly jumped at the chance. And with that, and the adoption of The Word Is Out or TWIO as their official name, the first open mic was held in May 1997.

Over the course of 25 years, TWIO has had to juggle its open mic when the library was shut down for renovations and the group used another library branch. And it was almost shut down the second time when the pandemic closed the library, but Jilly wasn’t about to let a pandemic spoil her fun. After two months hiatus, Jilly pivoted the group to Zoom, which turned out to be a blessing because it allowed not only local people, but writers from across North Carolina and even the U.K. to tune in and participate. 

Open Mic is held the last Tuesday of each month, with the virtual meeting opening at 6:45 p.m. to check in and sign up to speak, and readings beginning at 7 p.m. Most open mics have a theme, which is optional, plus a featured writer. Every five years, Jilly takes the stage to celebrate another milestone with the group and to share some of her poetry.

Open mic welcomes all ages of writers to share up to five minutes of their poetry or prose. Whether you’re a budding poet, have written for years and kept it tucked away in a drawer, or are an experienced writer or published author, you are welcome to join this incredibly creative group. Don’t feel like you have to read; audience members are welcome, too! 

TWIO has two disclaimers: TWIO does not endorse every idea, concept or word choice you may hear and, TWIO endorses the concepts of freedom of speech, poetic license, and intellectual freedom.

Jilly remarked that what keeps the group going is “… a strong feeling of fellowship, maturity and respect for each other.” Over their 25 years of promoting poets and poetry, Jilly mentioned that several people have been instrumental in bringing in new and vibrant voices. “Deborah Streeter has been a long-time supporter and as a local poet, has helped to identify other poets and bring them to TWIO. Truth, a spoken word artist, uses the platform to bring the realities of life growing up, living and raising kids in East Winston.”

In addition to poetry, TWIO welcomes writers to share various and different literary pieces, including eulogies, activism, performance poetry, and even music to accompany readings. Jilly describes TWIO as “therapeutic.”

For more information about TWIO or to get the Zoom link, email thewordisoutopenmic@nullgmail.com.

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