Go Deeper

Alyesha Wise: Poetry and Performance

Posted April 17th, 2013
“Poetry started off as the feeling I got when I screamed in the pillow.”
Alyesha Wise. Photo: SP Photography.

Alyesha Wise. Photo: SP Photography.

On May 13 and 14, FringeArts presents our second annual Jumpstart, a showcase designed to identify new and emerging talent in the field of live performance. 2013 will feature six artists/companies performing short works, and we here at FringeArts Blog thought we’d catch up with them, starting with poet and storyteller Ms. Wise (, who will be performing her work A Denzel Theory.

Ms. Wise is Alyesha Wise, a poet and teaching artist from Camden, NJ, who has performed throughout the country. Currently residing in Philadelphia, she is the founder of Love, Us, which serves to spread universal and self-love through the arts. Alyesha is a two-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist, placing 5th in the world in 2010. Recently she was interviewed by film director Ron Howard who called her work “very powerful.” (Hey Ron, come to the show! You can get tickets here!)

FringeArts: Why is your show title A Denzel Theory?

 Alyesha Wise: A Denzel Theory is named after my kid brother, Denzel. Growing up in my hometown didn’t necessarily pave an easy road to success. Denzel made it look quite the opposite, remaining focused, engaging in sports and academics, then getting a full scholarship to college. This piece is about how our old city eventually swayed him in the opposite direction. This piece is about how this happens to many youth in environments like ours. This poem is a cry. And it’s a theory. Not sure when it came to me; but it’s one of the fastest poems I’ve ever written.

FringeArts: Where did you grow up?

Alyesha Wise: I grew up in Camden, New Jersey. It was a broken community. But it was community. I remember playing kickball and hide-n-go-seek. I remember growing up too fast. It made me the super person I am today.

FringeArts: How did you go about creating this work?

Alyesha Wise: It presented itself as a theory to me. I thought about all of the things I knew about my younger brothers, my older brother, the peers I grew up with, my students. I thought about how I changed my life around and how some don’t or never had to do so. I wanted the poem to have a hip hop feel without lacking “the poem.” And I wanted to finish saying to myself, Now this theory here makes perfect sense.

FringeArts: How did poetry become the art you expressed your with?

Alyesha Wise: Poetry started off as the feeling I got when I screamed in the pillow. Or when I turned the music up really loud and yelled the lyrics at the top of my lungs. The difference is that poetry was something I created myself. Then one day I realized that I was rather good at it. And when you recognize your gift, you don’t let it go.

FringeArts: When did you begin performing on stage?

Alyesha Wise, live!

Ms. Wise, live!

Alyesha Wise: I began writing poetry when I was eleven years old. I first took my words on stage during my middle school pageant. I totally sucked in that pageant because I didn’t project loud enough. But I never stopped believing in my gift. I eventually started attending poetry venues, regularly, at sixteen years old. The storytelling part kind of attached itself to me. I realized that I had a thing for telling stories in my poems. And that was fine with me. Some of the best writers and lyricists were and are amazing storytellers.

FringeArts: Can you tell me about your organization Love, Us and why you started it?

Alyesha Wise: Love, Us: An Annual Production & Movement was created to promote universal and self love through the arts. In 2009, Michael Jackson had passed away. He was indeed a love revolutionist, something which I call myself today. I paid more attention to the messages of love in his music after his death, though I’ve always been a fan. And I remember, during that same time, there was a rise in reported school bullying and youth suicides. There was so much happening that made me realize that what this world was lacking most was love—love for each other and love for ourselves. So I said, I want to create an event. I want to create something huge that will combat this issue. And, longer story short, out came the first Love, Us. And we’ll be launching our 4th annual Love, Us on June 26th in West Philadelphia.

FringeArts: How do you like to spend your last 15 minutes before showtime?

Alyesha Wise: Deep breathing, giving thanks, remembering my purpose.

Thanks Alyesha and have a great show!

Monday May 13 + Tuesday May 14 at 7pm
Painted Bride Art Center, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
$18 / $12 Students + 25 and under

–Josh McIlvain