Jacob WintersteinArt Form(s):
I am both an avid traveler and a rooted community member. This paradox puts “place” at the center of my work. In my poetry I explore how I have been sculpted by my natural, political, and constructed surroundings. My work is rooted in my own experiences and the people with whom I’ve shared them. My poetry also branches out to explore how plants, concrete, sky, rivers, streets, and buildings are a part of my stories. Further, I imagine how the past and mystical or fantastical forces have shaped my experiences and the settings where they take place. I bring a traveler’s eye to my work, looking in all directions with a heightened sense of awareness seeking to absorb and understand.
Jacob Winterstein is a poet, performer, teaching artist, host, and freestyle rapper. He has traveled to 25 countries and always comes home to Philadelphia, where he was born, raised, and educated. Jacob has represented Philadelphia at the National Poetry Slam, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and the Red Bull Word Clash Poetry Competition, and is a winner of the Philadelphia Poet VS MC freestyle competition. He has taught poetry, performance, and freestyling since 2006 at schools, universities, community centers, and jails. He is a Philadelphia Magazine Best of Philly 2012 winner and a Knight Foundation Arts Challenge 2013 winner. He also is the co-director of Camp Bonfire, a summer camp for adults.
I teach poetry, performance, and freestyling to help people document their unique significance in the world. My poetry, performance, and freestyling workshops also create a space in which participants can escape from a world that is often too harsh.
I believe that we all have a lot to teach and learn from each other and I enjoy using Popular Education techniques to create a learning environment in which everyone feels empowered to share and receive. During my workshops I encourage participants to write from a place of expertise, usually their lived experiences. My workshops focus on getting participants to generate ideas and focus on the people, places, and memories that are important to them. After participants have tapped into something that is important to them we work on developing style and improving skill so that their writing is full of creativity, individuality, and passion.
While the ethos of my teaching practice stays the same, I employ two distinct teaching methods. One is more traditional and involves participants brainstorming on their own with paper and pen or on a computer. Then we learn about literary devices and how to employ them as a group, and each participant gets to practice on their own with support and feedback from their peers and me. The second method I employ is rooted in the cipher (improvisational rapping circles). Instead of generating ideas or practicing skills on their own at a desk, all of the participants stand in a circle and move to a steady hip-hop beat. Using freestyle rap I guide students through a series of fun and progressively more challenging interactive improvisation activities that explore language, build confidence, and use music and movement to develop their writing voice. Students learn to compose complete verses out loud before ever writing a word down. Sometimes I start my workshops with freestyle activities to spark creativity and then transition participants into writing on their own or in small groups.