Poet Jen Harris is a professional public speaker, spoken word poet, activist, published author, founder and former host of Kansas City Poetry Slam. Nationally recognized in the aforementioned, she works as an advocate to incorporate spoken word poetry as a form of peer-based mental health therapy.
Harris graduated Cum Laude from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, emphases in Communication Studies, English Language and Literature. She is the recipient of the 2015 UMKC Jim Wanser Pride Award for outstanding LGBT community activism in Kansas City. Additionally, she was nominated as the 2017 Spoken Word Host of the Year by the National Spoken Word Awards, is the recipient of The Pitch Magazine's Top 3 Poets in Kansas City award 2014-2016, winning the coveted title in 2017, the same week that she gave her TED Talk at the University of Kansas, "Spoken Word Poetry Saved My Life," Spoken Word Poetry as a form of mental health advocacy, and is the 2009 ACP Kansas Journalist of the Year. Her first book of poetry, Slammed, released via Spartan Press Feb. 27, 2016 to a sold out audience.
Due out December 2018, Jen is currently finalizing her second book of poetry, Unconfirmed Certainties, as well as the manuscript of her 60-minute, one-woman spoken word show, Lust & Disdain, completed at her 2016-2017 writing residency at the Charlotte Street Foundation. She recorded her first spoken word album, Flaunting Her Mediocrity, at Element Recording Studios. The album released to the public in August 2016 coinciding with her September tour: Multiple Personalities, both of which were funded in July 2016 in a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. Thanks to the support of poetry enthusiasts nationwide, Jen received more than $7,000 to launch her latest endeavors.
She has opened for internationally-acclaimed spoken work poet Andrea Gibson at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and produced shows for contemporary, published poets including Clementine Von Radics, Pages Matam, and Alexander Dang, as the Slammaster of Kansas City's first PSi certified poetry slam, PoUnd SLAM in addition to performing across the country at music festivals, private shows, on college campuses, LGBTQIA community centers, women's rights empowerment groups, protests and rallies, poetry readings, living rooms, parking lots, city sidewalks and anywhere else her voice can make a positive impact.
"Poetry has made me the ethnographer of a generation tangled in tradition and technology. My work is poetic memoir, a confessional assortment of personal and adopted stories of life on and off the grid; substance use, abuse survival, coming out stories, the New Age shift in mindfulness, the cross-country migration of artists in search of paying work both plentiful and fulfilling, the demise of the corporate culture, the defiance of media-induced prepackaged lives and conversely, the beauty created when people unite on a common front for a common purpose. Culturally, we have never existed in a time with so much need and so many wasted resources. I feel a deep moral responsibility to document injustice and victory alike in an effort to put human faces on the social movements of our time." - Poet Jen Harris