“Spoken Word/Spoken Justice”: A Q&A with Will McInerney

Will McInerney (photo by Jackson Hall)

Will McInerney (photo by Jackson Hall)

Q: What can you tell me about the performance, “WUNC’s Stories with a Heartbeat,” that you will be bringing to UNC in February for the Process Series?

A: “Stories with a Heartbeat” is a new podcast I’m hosting at WUNC-FM, North Carolina Public Radio, that explores moments of conflict through poetry, conversation and storytelling. For the Process Series, we are going to bring a collection of the most powerful stories to UNC. These stories help us understand the complexity of the human condition in conflict and seek to humanize dehumanizing situations.

Q: Are you excited to reunite with your “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution” collaborators? What was it like to work on that particular project?

A: Absolutely! Kane Smego, Mohammad Moussa and Sameer Abdel-Khalek are incredible artists and dear friends. It was a true honor to work with them back in 2011 when we traveled to Egypt and Tunisia to document the uprisings through poetry, images and videos, and I can’t wait to do it again. “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution” was a transformational experience for me as a person and as an artist.

Q: What makes spoken word poetry such a powerful form of storytelling?

A: Spoken word poetry and oral storytelling are at the core of what it means to be human. Long before stories were ever written down, they were spoken aloud. On every continent and in every culture, you can find a legacy of the oral tradition of storytelling. Contemporary forms of spoken word poetry are an extension of this universal and powerful form of communication. As scholar Sara Cobb says, “Stories are the architecture of our consciousness.” Stories effect the way we think, speak and act every day. Spoken word poetry taps into this power.

Q: Tell me about the workshops you’ll also hold for students during the Process Series performance residency. What is it about working with students that inspires you?

A: The workshops will help students tell their own stories through spoken word poetry and will also explore radio as a vehicle for storytelling. Storytelling is all about the exchange of ideas. It’s about speaking and listening, telling and learning. Workshops are the perfect place to truly practice this. I love teaching workshops because it gives me the opportunity to share and to learn, to speak and to listen in an exchange of ideas and experiences with students.

Q: What are you up to now?

A: I work at North Carolina Public Radio these days hosting “Stories with a Heartbeat.” I also still do freelance writing, performance and consulting work on the side. All of my work is aimed at using the power of storytelling to foster understanding, connection and peace.