Local poets go on 'Unpacking Tour'

By Tasman Mattox | 11/20/17 1:15am

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Grand Valley State University students do not have to look far to find exciting new performers and artists to discover. Grand Rapids has a growing art scene, and two artists are at the forefront with their national spoken-word tour. Calling it the “Unpacking Tour," the Michigan natives are traveling all over the nation, including places as far as Texas, Colorado and Washington.

“People can expect a fresh new look at poetry," said Marcel Price, also known as Fable the Poet, one of the two performers and creators of the tour. "They’ll see that poetry can touch their hearts and be interactive and help them navigate through what they’re going through."

Price said that although poetry was not always a personal calling, experiencing a poetry event changed that and gave him inspiration.

“It was an English teacher in high school," Price said. "I actually hated poetry and English and was failing school, and they sent me to a poetry slam. They showed me that poetry could be anything I wanted it to be, and I’ve been hooked on it since.”

The tour has been on the road since July, and they are about halfway through.

“It’s been much more than I could have possibly expected," said K. Foster-Goodrich, who goes by KFG, the other poet involved. "I’ve gotten people who have come forward with their own stories and people who just silently appreciate." 

For Foster-Goodrich, performing live is a reminder of personal growth. 

“Both Fable and I have gotten to this point where we’ve gotten used to telling certain stories of ours," Foster-Goodrich said. "These are things we’ve already processed, but having people come talk to us and saying they could never do it is a reminder, personally, of how far I’ve come."

The tour is currently in full swing but is still searching for support.

“Being a traveling artist is humbling, especially realizing how much is needed,” Foster-Goodrich said. “We have a GoFundMe, we have a merchandise campaign, and that’s how we’re fueling this whole thing. There’s a raffle, which is cheesy but cool. It’s not just about the money support: It’s about getting people engaged with what we’re doing and creating connections.”

The two said they hope the Unpacking Tour helps show people the cathartic nature of poetry.

“I think poetry takes all of these thoughts and feelings that, maybe in a typical sense, aren’t able to be expressed through words,” Foster-Goodrich said. “It takes these things outside of your head to actually look at it and make it something tangible and not something that just bounces around your head. It makes it something that can be worked with.”

The tour also puts a special focus on mental health.

“Talking about it is the biggest thing," Price said. "Far too often, we feel the need to not talk about it because it will ruin someone's day. We need to talk about it and be vocal.”

Both poets said that mental health is highly stigmatized, making it increasingly important to talk openly about. 

“People act like talking about mental health and feelings is something that is weak,” Foster-Goodrich said. “But people have to work through that vulnerable spot to find some footing in their truth.”

Foster-Goodrich also shared some advice for college students who may be struggling.

“When it comes (to) working with your mental illness, self-compassion is really important, but sometimes compassion isn’t coddling," Foster-Goodrich said. "It’s making difficult decisions, like calling someone or getting out bed or doing one little thing that’s challenging."

Price emphasized the importance of reaching out to others.

“Don’t be afraid to seek out help," he said. "If you’re struggling, don’t think that you have to go through it alone."

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