Ollie Woods | Facebook

Ollie Woods, an Austin poet and spoken word artist, said that poetry got him through his childhood and he wants to help the new generation find its voice. 

For the past six years, Woods, who has performed under the moniker “Hoodraised,” has been teaching creative writing and performance classes. 

He wants to be able to set his own schedule and offer more classes, so is using his savings to turn a school in a storefront at 5302 W. Chicago Ave. into The Nest creative writing school. He expects the school to open on Aug. 6. 

Austin Weekly News talked to Woods about how he became a poet and an artist, unlocking his students’ writing potential and how he hopes the school would impact the community. 

On getting into poetry

I grew up on the West Side. Broken home, drugs-infested neighborhood, the cliche thing. And I just wrote about it. It was a way to channel my feelings. Writing became my method of relief. 

I got introduced to the poetry scene about 16 years ago. I went there just to observe, but I just got infatuated. I started going weekly and I got up the nerve to try it and once I tried it … I’ve been performing ever since.

On teaching 

I traveled all over America for a while. I dealt with different circumstances and different people, and I won multiple awards, so I felt that it was only natural, the next step of the evolution, to become an instructor, to show the people who walk the same way I walk how I did it.

One of my first students is now also an award-winning poet. [Dianna Tyler, who performs as Goddess Warrior the Poet]. She won the People’s Choice Award [at the NextShowcase Chicago Competition]. I’ve been working with her for about five to six years.  I have an 11-year-old student now who’s being nominated for the Youth Poet Award in Chicago.   

I’ve also helped people be more comfortable with expressing themselves. It’s not necessarily about being the best poet or the best spoken word artist — it’s about expressing yourself and being comfortable with your stories; to know that your story, that your voice matters. It’s not about sounding like anybody else. It’s about being comfortable with you and how you deal with it. Be comfortable speaking about it.

 Comfort is not easy to obtain. Getting up in front of the stage, you need to overcome your fear. It’s a natural instinct, but you have to stay the course and keep working.

I’ve been instructing for a couple of years. Now, I’m doing it full-time, and the best way to do it is to have my own place, where I can control how many students I have. 

It’s been my focus for about a year now. But officially, just in the last couple of months.  

For more information about Ollie Woods, visit hoodraisedpoetry.com

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...