CORINTH, Miss. (WTVA) -- How does one help both young and old have a greater appreciation for the written word?
"It's more about poetry being fun. It does not have to just lay there on the page, and you read it straight," Crossroads Poetry Project president Autry Davis said.
Davis helped start the organization about five years ago.
What started as school visits and opportunities to read to children quickly evolved to monthly poetry readings and workshops.
And they still read to children; in fact, that number has only increased.
Last year, Davis alone read poetry to more than four thousand students across Alcorn County.
"When I go into the school and read, I don't just read poetry. I perform poetry. What comes to mind now is 'Song for a Banjo Dance' by Langston Hughes," Davis said. "'I dance, I move,' just like within the poem. Sometimes it says, 'Shake your brown feet, Liza.' I shake my brown feet with shoes on, and the kids just laugh. They love it."
"When Autry goes in and reads to him, they light up. When I was going to school, we had William Shakespeare and things like that, but the kind of performing arts poetry that Autry reads and the rest of the bunch reads, we didn't hear it," Crossroads Poetry Project vice-president Milton Wallis said. "And when they hear it, they really, they love it."
Wallis enjoys reading and writing poetry, specifically haikus, but he says he's constantly amazed at how their efforts have changed into something that inspires others.
"I just thought the kids in this community needed something," Wallis said. "And I thought this is what I need to do. That's the way we all feel. The more you read, the more you work your mind and learn."
In fact, since they've started having poetry-writing contests, Wallis said that gave the group the chance to see just how creative Alcorn County students can be.
"You wouldn't believe the talent the kids in this community have just writing. I didn't know it was here, and it's all over [the area]," Wallis said.
"This is something they might not ever do as a career, but it is something they can do. And I think life and building confidence in young people is knowing what [they] can do. If nothing else, you can say this is one thing I can do well, and that feels good," Davis said.
Both men agree that their efforts are rewarded by a growing interest in the art form across Alcorn County.
"Maybe one day we could have a poetry festival here in Corinth, like the Slugburger Festival. We might not ever get that big, but that's what we're pushing for one day, to have a big event like that here," Wallis said.
Now Wallis, Davis and other members of the Crossroads Poetry Project say they're looking forward to branching outside the county and introducing more kids and adults to something they may never have heard before.