From Project Catapult: ‘Versify’

This is part of a series that looks at the shows in Project Catapult’s first cohort.

Versify, a new PRX podcast, features strangers telling their stories to poets, who turn the stories into verse, on the spot.

With a little editing help and some personal reflections from host Joshua Moore, the episodes force introspection on complicated and universal themes — from overcoming a disability to falling from the faith or surviving war.

“In every episode of Versify, we focus in on one person’s story, paying special attention not only to what they say, but the way they say it. Inside these small exchanges, our poets form connections with their storytellers, and gain insights into their lives because they care to listen closely,” said Versify host Joshua Moore. “There’s honestly a sort of magic in the way these writers can take the briefest intimacy, weave it into a work of art and offer it back as a gift — not only to our participants, but also to our listeners.”

The show is a production of Nashville Public Radio and The Porch literary center and was part of PRX’s first Project Catapult cohort, with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Versify showcases Nashville locals with extraordinary stories — and Nashville poets with extraordinary talent.

The first three episodes, released Aug. 24, feature a blind man who didn’t know he was blind at first, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and a man whose family’s rejection helped him understand unconditional love.

Start here, at the first episode of Versify.

Versify’s team consists of founding editor and Nashville Public Radio reporter Tony Gonzalez and host Joshua Moore, a Nashville poet.

Nashville poet Joshua Moore, left, is the host of Versify, and WPLN’s Tony Gonzalez is editor and producer. The show is formed of a partnership among Nashville Public Radio, The Porch literary center, PRX, and CPB.

Gonzalez said one of the goals of the podcast is to instill an appreciation for poetry in people who may not otherwise interact with it.

“We seek out diverse communities and strive to make poetry accessible,” Gonzalez said.

And the participants whose stories are told seem to feel that Versify has been successful in its mission to bring poetry to the masses.

“I don’t think I even liked poetry in school,” said Fred Bailey, the nonprofit founder and former wrestling coach at Tennessee School for the Blind whose story is featured in episode 1. “I’ve never even thought about myself like that, but when you read that, I understand … And I think that poem should be for anybody … whatever predicament they’re in.”

You can follow Versify on Twitter or Instagram, and subscribe to the show on RadioPublic, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.