Twenty years ago, a group of friends gathered in a candle-lit living room. With the warmth of D’Angelo, Erykah Badhu, and Jill Scott playing, they shared food and ideas before turning down the music and turning up their talent. The friends performed their own poetry, keenly listening and offering critique. In time, artists from these monthly gatherings would go on to perform at the Sentient Bean, Gallery Espresso and Savannah State.
Spitfire Poetry Group was born.
And from those get-togethers, co-founders Clinton Powell and Ralph Dillard, aka REN, sought venues for spoken word in Savannah. They also strategically partnered with local schools to lead poetry and performance workshops.
Fostering spoken word in schools
From the very beginning, Spitfire Poetry artists worked in local schools teaching the next generation, emboldening young minds with skills necessary for thoughtful, powerful self-expression.
“The name Spitfire actually came from this all-purpose cleaner I used when I worked at BASF in Savannah,” recalled Dillard. “But when Clinton (Powell) and I would get in this flow, rhyming, we’d say we were spittin’ fire. Not only was it a creative way to describe hot spoken word, but lifting the name from a cleaner I used regularly made that day job a little more bearable.”