I has been my pleasure to work with and hold poetry classes at five organizations in New Hampshire and beyond: The Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, The Chase Home for Children in Portsmouth, The International Institute of New England in Manchester, ORIS, the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success in Manchester, and The Light and Leadership Initiative in Hauycan, Peru.

In all of these classes and readings, including Beat Night, the application of my personal principle of listen and be heard is conscious and intentional. Because feeling heard is one of the most powerful and important occurrences in a persons life.

When we don’t feel heard, when we feel like no one is listening, we feel disconnected from our lives. And of course, we will not be heard unless someone else is listening. This is a gift, a sacred exchange of connection that we can give each other.

In the wide range of experiences with poetry I’ve had over the course of my life, and in the diverse group of people of all ages I’ve had the honor of teaching in poetry classes, one thing is true: when a person feels heard, they feel connected. And the same is true for those who are listening.

We are finding, as the experiment with social media continues and grows, and from our collective experience with the pandemic, there is no substitute for people being with other people in the same physical space, listening, being heard, and feeling connected.

With the groups I’ve worked with, whether they were refugees and immigrants, at-risk youth, or people in recovery, they all felt the trauma of society and the people in their lives turning their backs on them. They felt the trauma of not being heard anymore. The resulting effects of that trauma is that their lives become infinitely more difficult as they struggle to find someone, anyone, who will listen so they can get and feel connected again.

Being and feeling connected is not just the struggle of our times, it is, I believe, the primary purpose and motivation of life itself. Another word for connection is Unity. We want and need to feel unified with each other, the natural world, and with the creative force that animates everything. We can call that force God, the universe, or The Force, or nothing at all. But no matter what you call it, whether you’re religious, spiritual, purely scientific, or all or none of the above, we can agree that connection is important.

We can agree that right here, right now, with each other on this little planet, it’s important to listen and be heard. If nothing else, we can do that. That’s why I’m passionate about setting up microphones and encouraging people, all people, to write something down and read it to the rest of us. I’m passionate about the power of that simple connection to heal individuals and the world.

Mike Nelson