Jordan Chaney was a couple years out of high school, living in Arizona.
The TV was on at home and a movie called Slam started playing. It’s about a young spoken word poet.
“(The main character) lays down this poem, and I’m watching it,” Chaney said.
He was riveted. He got chills. The moment changed his life.
“It was as if an alien had landed in my front yard. I was awestruck,” Chaney said. “I knew that’s what I was supposed to do, that was the path my poetry was supposed to take, because it was so filled with passion and message and theater and soul.”
Now 37, Chaney found success on that path — a great deal of it.
The Tri-City man is an acclaimed speaker, educator and poet — one who regularly awes audiences with his powerful, emotional, evocative poems and performances.
On June 16, he’s celebrating the release of his latest book, Art of the Spoken Word.
It’s designed to help youths and adults alike become more confident and creative communicators.
A release party is at 6 p.m. at Frichette Winery in Benton City. The public is welcome.
Chaney’s road to becoming a poet wasn’t exactly a smooth one. From homelessness in his youth to teen fatherhood, odds were stacked against him.
But in words and writing, he found passion and purpose.
Along with Art of the Spoken Word, Chaney has penned two poetry collections, Rocket Fuel for Dreamers and Double-Barreled Bible, plus the children’s book, M.C. Seuss: Once Upon a Rhyme. He also is founder of Urban Poets Society, a youth leadership program, and he teaches and presents workshops around the country and beyond.
I knew that’s what I was supposed to do, that was the path my poetry was supposed to take, because it was so filled with passion and message and theater and soul.
Andy Perdue, editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine and a wine columnist for The Seattle Times, is a close friend.
He recruited Chaney to write a column for Wine Press Northwest after hearing him perform his stunning Ode to Grape.
“I was so enchanted by the poem that I went over and introduced myself to him,” Perdue said.
He called Chaney “remarkable” — for his poetry and his work with youth. Perdue has watched Art of the Spoken Word come together, and in his view it’s an effective tool.
“It’s not just about performing poetry or writing poetry. It can help someone who wants to speak better in front of an audience,” Perdue said.
Tod Marshall, Washington’s poet laureate, also is a fan. “Chaney knows poetry — lives poetry — and his enthusiasm is contagious in these pages,” he wrote in an introduction in the book.
Art of the Spoken Word includes 12 lessons in creativity, communication and confidence.
It’s not a book designed to let the reader flip through passively; it’s filled with exercises, with activities.
Take this one: Toward the end of Lesson 3, Chaney has the reader play with the sound of his or her voice.
At that point, the reader has written a haiku, and the task is to read it aloud several different ways.
In a boring, dry, monotonous tone. In an angry tone. As if to lull a baby to sleep. Shouting from a mountaintop.
“The idea here is to inject emotion or animation into your words,” Chaney writes in the book, which ramps up — over the course of the 12 lessons — to a live performance.
In an ending note, Chaney writes that he’s dedicated “the last 10 years of my dreaming life to poetry and public speaking,” and many doors have opened as a result.
“There is no greater feeling in life than your dream feeding you,” he writes. “I have learned that magic happens when you give yourself fully to your passion, no matter what that passion happens to be. This workbook was written to assist not just aspiring wordsmiths, but my fellow dreamers out there as well. Communication, creativity and confidence will help anyone in any pursuit.”
Chaney is designating a portion of proceeds to Urban Poets Society’s summer youth retreat.
The book release event is for people 21 and older. It will include live music, a toast and more.
Chaney said he’s excited — to celebrate Art of the Spoken Word, to get it out to the public.
He also has several other projects in the works, including a book with Urban Poets Society and local artists.
He points to a favorite quote, which says that every morning in Africa the lion wakes up knowing he must outrun the slowest gazelle to survive, and the gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion. “The moral of the story is, no matter if you’re a lion or a gazelle or even a poet, when the sun comes up you’ve got to start running,” Chaney said.
He’s busy. And, he said, grateful.
“A lot of people go through life wondering, ‘What is my calling? What is my thing?’ A lot of people just won’t find it, and they’ll always wonder,” Chaney said. “I feel fortunate that I was able to find my thing.”
Frichette Winery is at 39412 N. Sunset Road.
If you want a copy of Art of the Spoken Word but can’t attend, go to https://squareup.com/store/poet. Cost is $24.99 plus shipping.
IF YOU GO
What: Release party for poet Jordan Chaney’s new workbook, Art of the Spoken Word.
When: 6 p.m. June 16.
Where: Frichette Winery, 39412 N. Sunset Road, Benton City.
Can’t make it but still want a copy of the book? Go to https://squareup.com/store/poet.