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Serena Partlow - TEDx Serena Partlow at TEDx

Serena Partlow took her poetry show on the road in January landing a plum spot in the TEDx Eustis 2020 event convened at the Bay Street Players Theater in downtown Eustis, Fla.

Local, self-organized TEDx events bring together people to share a TED-like experience. TED — short for Technology, Entertainment and Design — is a nonprofit organization dedicated to disseminating ideas, usually in the form of brief, but weighty talks.

“Think again” — a challenge to participants to look again at issues with new eyes — served as the event’s theme.

That Partlow, a 2019 Beacon alumnus, wound up performing at the TEDx Eustis 2020 was pure serendipity.
A fan of open mic nights, Partlow performed some of her poetry in October at the Leesburg Public Library during its Thursday open mic night. And who just happened to be filling in for Deb Bussinger, library program coordinator, and the usual open mic night host?

Tim Tottenburg, the organizer for TEDx Eustis.

“When I presented some of my poetry and I had no idea who I was performing in front of,” said Partlow, who now works at the Robert & Jane Weiner Writing Center at Beacon College.

Tottenburg later approached her with an idea.

“I didn’t know for a month afterward what his idea was, but I heard at the November open mic from Deb [Bussinger] that he was interested in inviting me [to TEDx Eustis], and I was ecstatic and immediately got in contact.”

With an invitation in hand, the next step for Partlow proved the most difficult: choosing what to perform.

Serena Partlow at TEDx “I was asked for 10 minutes of spoken word that, to paraphrase, didn’t have me yelling or crying at anything,” Partlow recalled. “I had plenty of material, but nothing that could last 10 whole minutes and make sense. I was at a loss until I went on a weeklong trip to Jamaica with my grandmother and brother, and I suddenly had a story.”

Here’s a snippet:

Mangos droop lazy and green
The plum tree waves its compound leaflets in an ocean breeze and
I wonder if plants could rust
If we all could rust
The salt eats away at us all the same
And the afternoon rains
Last only long enough
To leave one thirsty

Partlow believes her performance was well received. In any case, when TEDx Eustis eventually posts it the world can be the judge.

Whatever the verdict, Partlow came away all smiles.

“I was very worried beforehand, but I’m actually very proud of what I was able to accomplish, and I had so much fun.”