All people have natural storytelling skills as human beings, professional spoken word artist Kane Smego said. On Friday, March 14, Smego taught a free slam poetry workshop and performed with students at Unplugged in the Mind and Hearth. Smego tried to avoid poetry throughout his adolescent years, but became involved in spoken word at age 19 after being invited to an International Poetry Slam by a former high school teacher.
“Poetry is seen as a thing that only exists in books...and is hard to understand,” Smego said.
Through his workshops, Smego erases that misconception and encourages people to tell their stories through words.
Students participating in the workshop were asked to choose an important moment of their lives and write vividly about it in exactly 30 words. Many found that difficult, but afterward Smego asked the students to cut their poems down to 20 words, followed by 10 words and finally six. Through this exercise, students learned that poems can sometimes be most effective when they are concise and the words are carefully chosen.
Junior Sarah Cruz found the exercise to be one of the most valuable parts of the event.
“[The workshop] showed me that poems can become more powerful the less you’ve said,” Cruz said.
Students were then asked to craft poems in the style of spoken word artist G Yamazawa’s piece “10 Things You Should Know About Being an Asian in the South.” Freshman Annika Bratton performed the “10 Things” poem she wrote during the workshop at Unplugged later that night.
Later that evening in the Mind & Hearth, Smego shared several powerful poems chronicling his life with a difficult father, his love for his mother and how the media uses people to market products.
During the performance, Smego also performed several haikus and a humorous poem about time travel. Cruz, sophomore Nicholas Fuller and freshman Hannah Howell performed poems they had written before the workshop and received overwhelmingly positive reactions from the crowd.
“This was my first poetry slam and I was really impressed,” sophomore Annette Peppel said after the performance.
“I’ve recently gained interest in poetry, and this brought me in deeper to the poetry culture,” Cruz said about her performance.
Many of Cruz’s poems discuss hardships she has gone through.
As a professional spoken word artist, Smego sometimes finds it hard to create new material because of his frequent performances. To stay inspired, Smego tries to jot down a line or concept whenever one crosses his mind, and to be prepared for any moment of inspiration.
Sometimes a writer must sit down and break through that dam of writer’s block, Smego said.
Smego encourages students to pursue spoken word, and hopes to aid them by teaching workshops and traveling to schools, as well as prisons and juvenile detention centers, where his workshops teach leadership roles as well as poetry and hip hop. He believes that if people love what they do, and they are passionate about it and do it very well, they can make their lives out of it.
“If you take two steps forward, God will lead you the rest of the way,” Smego said.