Four Lessons We Can Learn From Dasha Kelly


On Wednesday morning, some lucky DASH students were offered the opportunity to attend a workshop and poetry reading by Milwaukee-based poet Dasha Kelly. As students and as artists, we are sponges for the kind of inspiration that Ms. Kelly brings to us. The following is a list of lessons that we can take from Kelly’s words.

1.) You never know what will inspire you. Kelly self identifies first-and-foremost as a lover of fiction. Her relationship with writing began with spinning tales on her mother’s typewriter, though she admitted to having an aversion to poetry in high school. It was only into her adult life, when she first heard the honesty of slam poetry, that she saw its potential as a medium. Suddenly, the poetry form forced her to condense an enormous story into only the most important words and sounds. The message? That as artists, we may believe we know where we are headed, but the possibilities remain perpetually open before us.

2.) You can make a living out of this. One comment of Kelly’s that hit home is that she had been told that one does not make a living off writing. Despite that, today she travels as a keynote speaker, works with musicians to create poetry, publishes novels, and works with the arts outreach program she founded. This is hardly the life of a starving poet. Rather, we should take from Kelly in her ambition to not only create her art, but to find new ways to incorporate it into people’s lives.

3.) It’s not just me. Between sharing her musical, lovely, captivating poems with us, Kelly spoke candidly and asked how many of us were “people watchers”. Upon seeing a room full of hands raised, she said, “I love that moment when you realize that other people do something. You think to yourself, ‘it’s not just me.'” This lesson of the relatability of art and its power to bring people together is one of great importance. Whether your art is about finding connections or breaking them, it is always wise to be aware of its potential to bridge ideas between people.

4.) Be a genre-bender. Dasha Kelly is not merely a poet. She worked with a symphony orchestra to produce a poem in conjunction to a musical score, among other collaborations. In her novels, she mixes short stories with her poetry. Not to mention her influences, which range from an apology for watching too much TV, to the experience of sitting next to someone on a plane, to love. Dasha Kelly reminds us that our art is an extension of our person, and there is no reason to limit that to a narrow band of our lives.

Missed her at DASH? Want to see her again? Dasha Kelly will be performing at the Coral Gables Books&Books on February 28 at 8:00 pm.