Poetic Forms of Encouragement

Poetry and creative writing have long been used as mediums for vulnerability and storytelling to share with and relate to others, but this Midwestern team is taking that practice to a new level. Secret Midnight Press, a Columbus, OH, based “publishing company and curiosity brand,” has created a community of creatives that are ready to “share their art and share their heart.”

This team is led by two incredible poets, Ashley Dun and Jesse Cale, who have traveled around the United States together to share their work and invite others to do the same through an open-mic platform.

Cale, who often refers to himself as a “deep feeling magic being,” has said that he wants to be known as “a storyteller, an imaginative person, and a creator,” further saying, “When I was growing up, my dad used to tell bedtime stories and he would just make them up on the spot every night. Personally, I’ve lived a very interesting life and I love recalling it all to tell those stories. I feel like the way that people describe things even, like the taste of food or the way they felt after watching a movie or hearing a certain song is even storytelling … Everything can be a story. It’s all about how people fall in love with life, the things that they love in life, and the things that make you hurt that people like to talk about. When it comes down to it, it’s the things that make you feel that you talk about and [becomes] the story.”

Dun, who often refers to herself as a highly sensitive person and empath, has spoken about the benefits of kindness and empathy (to herself and others).

“Being kind and empathetic makes my life easier in some ways,” Dun said, “because if somebody does something that hurts me, I’m able to be sensitive to their story and how their brokenness may have led them to that. It helps me not hold on to bitterness and have the fulfillment of deep relationships in these times. It’s interesting, as a woman, to be accepted as sensitive, and it can be perceived as weak (which I do not want), but I go on stage every night to share my art. I just hope that it can inspire more women and more people to be sensitive and authentic.”

Friends and fans who attended their events around the nation have proven the impact of Secret Midnight Press’ work, sharing about how the events not only establish and sustain a community for creatives, but they also inspire others to join in on movements of sharing their stories, being kind to themselves, and finding strength in vulnerability.

One fan of Secret Midnight Press shared with me that the Secret Midnight Press events make them “feel safe and supported” later saying that every event makes strangers feel as if they’re surrounded by friends. Another attending poet said, “I couldn’t feel alone here, no matter what I’m going through.”

To all young people and aspiring poets who are reading this, Ashley Dun and Jesse Cale have a special message for you:

“Have grace always. Stay rooted in love and compassion for others and yourself. Be brave. Speak up and speak out. Ask for help when you need it. Know that things will be okay.” – Ashley Dun

“Share your heart. Share your heart. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Please try to be a friend to yourself, no matter how hard that may be.” – Jesse Cale

To learn more about Secret Midnight Press, read their poetry books, or find more information about potential events near you, please visit SecretMidnightPress.com or follow them on social media @SecretMidnightPress.

Taylor M. Parker

Taylor M. Parker, 20, is a graduate student at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in Indianapolis, where she received her undergraduate degree focusing in women's and cross-cultural philanthropy. As a life-long learner and nurturer, she has strong passions for wide-spread civic engagement and the culture of kindness for all people. When she isn’t writing research papers or organizing fundraisers, Taylor enjoys volunteering with friends, writing letters and poetry, making themed mixtapes, and attending live performances.

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