Slam poet aids students

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.

Courtney Murphy

Staff Writer

Sister Outsider duo performs edifying slam poetry

“This is your house, make us feel comfortable,” Denice Frohman said. On Oct. 2 at 9:00 p.m., spoken word poets Denice Frohman and Dominique Christina of the duo Sister Outsider brought an energy of social change to the HUB MPR. “There is a tension between the relativity of sisters and being an outsider. A sister is familiar, an outsider is not. We are at once, familiar and foreign,” Christina said, in describing the meaning of their duo’s name.

“Social issues will never be over-emphasized. We have to keep talking about it because these are real problems,” senior Ashton Skinner, the cultural events coordinator, said. The first topic of the night was education reform. Sister Outsider performed their poem, “No Child Left Behind”, a poem that combined both Frohman and Christina’s written works about the Philadelphia and Denver education systems, respectively.

Dominique Christina of Sister Outsider Simon Puzankov, Photographer

“I think the event was culturally important because it was a conversation about social issues. In class, these issues are often listed as facts,” sophomore Krystiana Morales said.

The duo covered a variety of topics from the concept of home to misrepresentation of minorities and the LGBT community.

“You kill everything that’s different, I preserve it,” Frohman said, in her poem “Dear Straight People.” The poem wasn’t directed toward all straight people, but specifically toward straight people who go out of their way to make gay people feel uncomfortable.

“It’s important for people to learn about opinions of others and know that not everyone has the same views, but that’s okay,” freshman Nick Fuller said.

Students cheered in agreement, but were also quiet during poems. There seemed to be a mutual understanding that what was being said was important, and that their words needed to be heard and understood.

“I tried it out, but I still felt like there was something missing. I was worried I was broken because I didn’t like boys,” Frohman said prior to performing her poem about her first kiss with a woman. The duo’s poetic real talk allowed students to feel a sense of comfort in not always having all aspects of life figured out.

“People are struggling with identity issues thinking, ‘Who am I? How do I be true to that?’ They need people validating their questions, people who have celebrated that journey,” Skinner said.

“Here is a poem, and I hope you feel disrupted by it,” Frohman said, prior to  reciting  a Muhammad Ali poem about the importance of having the courage to speak up.

Both Frohman and Christina were very open about their awareness to discomfort within the audience.

“Challenges to make the audience feel uncomfortable help you grow,” Frohman said. Considering the first poem was about education reform and the last about bloody vaginas, the duo evidently planned for a transition into intense topics.

In Christina’s “Summer of Violence” poem, she speaks about the emotional impact she experienced as a college student when she attended the funerals of four friends whom she lost to gang violence.

“It’s good for Whitworth to open our eyes because there really is a Pinecone Curtain and we can get too comfortable behind it. But this event made us uncomfortable in a great way,” sophomore Alysia Morales said. The duo was aware of the effect they were having on the audience and the growing discomfort they were creating.

“They were conversational, but not confrontational,” sophomore Kaley Alness said. Students may have felt this way during Christina’s last poem, “The Period Poem,” in which she speaks openly about the pride a woman should have in having her period and why men should be more accepting of that.

Denice Frohman of Sister Outsider. Simon Puzankov, Photographer

The next cultural event will be the Liberty of North Korea, or LiNK, event on Oct. 29 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.. There will be a film screening and discussion about the organization’s mission and how people can get involved with bringing freedom to North Korea. On Nov. 21 at 7:00 p.m. in the HUB MPR, International Festival will take place. Sodexo will serve a variety of foods from different countries and international students will share poems, songs and fashion native to their countries. For more information about cultural events, contact Skinner at askinner15@my.whitworth.edu.

Rachelle Robley

Staff Writer