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Spoken word poets Jessica Flynn and Dustin Nispel both started writing poetry at the beginning of high school.

For Flynn, English-class vocabulary exercises served as an inspiration, but she kept most of her creative writing private for years. "I was very personal and sensitive about it," she said.

For Nispel, performance was an integral part of his work from almost the beginning: he participated in an open mic nigh a year or two after he started writing.

"It was an adrenaline rush," he said of that first performance.

Fifteen years later, he hasn't stopped performing, and his words are taking him across the Atlantic. Nispel and Flynn, who are engaged, have been selected as the only poets from the U.S. to participate in the Ditet e Naimit International Albanian Poetry Festival in Tetova, Macedonia.

During a tour of spots around the city of Tetova, the couple will each perform three of their own poems, which they have sent to festival organizers ahead of time to be translated. They will also perform one piece together, Nispel's "Bottom of the Blossom." It's Flynn's favorite piece of Nispel's, she said. She chose that piece for their performance because "it's about connecting and opening your eyes."

Different perspectives: "I'm excited to see the diversity in cultures, how they write, and what spoken word is to them," Flynn said.

Neither she nor Nispel has ever been overseas.

From what he's gathered about the festival in conversations with Craig Czury, former Berks County Poet Laureate and chair of the festival's nominating committee, Nispel thinks the festival's other guests, about 90 percent of whom will be Albanian, and the rest from about 30 other countries, will have had very limited exposure to the spoken word mode.

"Craig has said that, in most of those countries, spoken word is a style they've only seen on TV or on the Internet," Nispel said.

For Flynn, whose first collection of poems, "Through the Cracks," is soon to be released from PoemSugar Press, creative writing is a form of therapy, and she loves connecting with others and sharing experiences through spoken word.

Nispel and Flynn, who are both visual artists as well as poets, own The Rooted Artist Collective, 101 N. Newberry St., with their friend Carrie Peck. Through bimonthly open mics and open-submission art shows, the three artists use their gallery as a way to reach out to the community.

Bumpy road: "It hasn't been an easy road," Nispel said. "Poets don't get paid." The poet feels like his efforts over the course of the past decade and a half are finally paying off.

Last summer, Nispel was feeling spread thin, his fiancee said. Between his crystal business, his involvement with multiple bands and his writing, he felt he wasn't able to devote his full energy to any one pursuit.

"I said, 'What are you most passionate about?'" Flynn recalled. "And he said, 'Poetry.'"

Soon after that, Flynn said, Nispel's collection of poems, "The Tower," was published.

Flynn said she is inspired by the things life throws at her and "trying to juggle everything as a mom. a server, a poet, an artist, and a business-owner."

Nispel finds catharsis in poetry. "There's healing in every art," he said. "I think it's important that we as individuals connect with that inner voice and use it as a tool to create change in the world."

The couple plan to produce a short documentary about the festival to be aired on White Rose Community Television. They would like to get a few corporate sponsorships to finance their trip, Nispel said.

The festival will pay their travel expenses once they arrive in Macedonia—they leave October 13—but for airline tickets, which will cost about $2400, and other expenses, the couple have set up a GoFundMe: their page is www.gofundme.com/dustinandjessica.

—Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.

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