Editor's Note: This story first ran in print on May 30, 2019, as part of our annual Faces of the Community series, which highlights the unsung heroes of southwest Iowa. Check out the rest of the Faces of Arts & Culture section by clicking on our e-edition here.
Trac Schacht found slam poetry late in life, but dove right in.
Schacht took a poetry class at Nebraska Wesleyan University years ago and enjoyed it, but it didn’t take.
“That was my first real attempt at poetry writing. I enjoyed it, but didn’t keep up with it. Mostly what it did was cause a love of reading poetry,” she said.
Schacht’s step-father taught high school poetry and “I wish he were alive to see Louder Than a Bomb and all that is going on. I can only imagine how excited he would be.”
“I didn’t like poetry at all when he wrote it,” she said with a laugh.
In the late 2000s she started attending poetry slams, including the monthly Verbal Gumbo events. She said she enjoyed them but didn’t have an interest in performing back then.
In 2011, four years removed from a major car accident accident but still going through surgeries to help her leg heal, Schacht had a medical van driver who was a poet.
“We clicked. He asked if he could do a poem for me. I didn’t really want to hear one, but I really wanted his phone number, so I said yes. It was fantastic!” she said. “
The man suggested she write one of her own and perform.
“He took me to Verbal Gumbo. I fell in love with the people and atmosphere. After that, it took off. I kept writing and practicing, setting the goal of having a new poem worked up and ready to do every month for Verbal Gumbo. A few months later I entered my first slam,” she said. “It was scary and fun and supportive. Just what I needed then and now.”
In her work, Schacht usually focuses on her time in foster care and group homes growing up. She graduated from Boys Town High School in 1987.
“So, I tend to write about that, the loneliness and anger that comes along with being ‘abandoned’ at all stages in life,” she said.
Schacht said her work focuses on “storytelling and self-positivity.”
Mostly, though, she writes about, “body and self.”
“I’m an overweight, 5-11, right-above-the-knee amputee with full thickness burn scars on almost 80 percent of my body. I’m not lovely by society’s standards, not at all,” she said. “However, I feel I’m beautiful. I feel all people are, if we can learn to see it and learn how to not let those darts thrown by society at us puncture. Poetry did this for me.
“Expressing it out loud to people, I had to eventually learn to believe it. Seeing the response from people, I learned to believe it. I don’t shy away from the raw truth and pain of it all. Life is hard and it can hurt you badly, but there is almost always a light, somewhere.
“So, I try to end most of my poems on a light. With a ride through some dark lines to get there.”
And for that work Schacht has been honored by the area poetry community, winning an Omaha Arts and Entertainment award.
“It was such an honor to be nominated. We are such a talented city. It was so much fun! And, then to win? And, have my friend Carmela be the one who announced the winner? It was all such a surprise and really fun,” she said. “I will tell you that everyone nominated is an amazing performance poet and person. To win out of that group was the biggest honor. I have such deep respect for each of them.
“They’ve each affected me and been a large support. Performing poetry is one of the highlights of my life as I turn 50 in June. It is one of the scariest, difficult, healing and most fun things I’ve ever done.”
Schacht lives at the Harvester Artist Lofts on South Main Street in Council Bluffs
“I love CB,” she said, noting she moved from Omaha. “I love CB and can’t believe it took me this long to move over here. I really love the people.”
She’s recently taken her words to canvas, translating the spoken word to visual art.
“This will be my first art show taking words to the wall. It is called ‘Scarred and Scorched.’ I don’t know where it will go,” she said. “But, then, if you ask anyone, that is how I live. It is exciting.”