David Gaines knows it’s hard to explore your creative voice when you’re worried about paying the bills.

That’s why the Montgomery County Poet Laureate supports his community outreach project to help other poets and writers pay their bills.

“This idea came about [through] finding ways for relief for writers, who have lost income because of Covid-19,” Gaines explained.

The resulting Full Circle Microgrant Program is the first MCPL resource initiative aimed at providing direct financial support to poets. 

While spurred by real hardship challenges since the coronavirus pandemic, Gaines believes Microgrants can thrive to support poets in the community beyond the immediate financial devastation Covid-19 has caused.

He said grant programs and organizations that have approved funding for him during this time have been a “big saving grace for me” as well as the support of his mother, with whom he lives, along with his brother and sister.

“I quit my part-time job right before the pandemic hit. I’ve been [writing] full-time now, and it’s been really difficult not having that income,” Gaines said.

Gaines received funding support from PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund (2020) and from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL program. 

Full Circle Microgrant’s goal is to reach people who really need it.

“Very few [grants] are directed to writers – that’s where the specific idea for writers came from…to reach people who really need it,” Gaines explained.

Most of the grant and relief awards Gaines received recently came through general artist funding for programs.

While the details for the MCPL program are being worked out, Gaines hopes donations and sponsorships will come from myriad sources – individuals, other non-profit organizations and from corporate donors and partnerships. 

He hopes businesses willing to invest in writers will step up because “writers are often times the loudest voices in a community” able to make a profound difference, not only for themselves but for others.

“I’ve gone into this thing with no expectations,” Gaines said. He brings a desire and passion to help marginalized people move forward.

“In this crisis and in the pandemic we can’t afford silence, we can’t let that happen,” he said.

The goal is for Full Circle Microgrants to help sustain creative endeavors and continue well beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

“If this fund helps one writer, one person, feel less alone or one writer feel more supported during this really stressful and chaotic time, that’s good enough for me,” Gaines said.

Gaines is currently working on a debut collection of poems with a target release in 2020. The collection, titled “Soft Boy” uses his life as “a window to explore and analyze the construction instruction and policing of black masculinity.”

For updates and progress toward the release of “Soft Boy” visit www.davegpoetry.com

Full Circle Microgrant Program is a provisional writer’s fund sponsored by the MCPL committee with $250 in unrestricted micro grants subsidized by local benefactors.

The purpose is to mitigate financial hardship caused by Covid-19 on writers in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh and Philadelphia counties.

For information about MCPL Full Circle Microgrant, as well as additional programs, opportunities and initiatives, visit www.montcopoet.org/programs/full-circle-microgrant .