Spoken Word Empowerment
Last Friday, Uncultivated Rabbits, the only organization dedicated to spoken word poetry on campus, held its annual spring showcase, titled “Express URself.”
Audience members were awestruck as they experienced with their eyes and ears, some beautiful thoughts and emotions put into prose, rhythm and verse. It was a night full of soulful performances, each conveying personal messages from the heart. The audience definitely had a positive vibe and good energy, as they snapped and moaned to certain parts of each performance to convey that those lines in particular were sound waves of pure pleasure to them.
The showcase was divided between performances by the board members, musical guest and last but not least, the special guests for this year: award-winning poets Alex Dang and Clementine von Radics, who flew all the way from Oregon to attend.
The first half consisted of the board members’ performances. Like how every individual’s personality varied, the topics for each poem did as well. For example, Alejandra Sosa’s piece, “Everything but the Eagle” involved his own personal and cultural origins, whereas Robert O’Rourke’s, “Don’t Ask, I’ll Never Tell,” involved the contradiction that is soldiers who must have a massive amount of courage to fight on the battlefield but are not brave enough to reveal their sexuality. With spoken word, UR’s board members revealed little pieces of themselves, showing a little more of their humanity; something that the world could stand to see more often.
After the board members’ pieces was a musical performance by Brandon Massaro, a member of the band Swedish Auto Service. Following that was the two VIPs.
Dang and von Radics took turns reciting their pieces. While they were all wonderful, Dang’s were much more comedic in a sense. Like many of us, Dang is still attending college. As such, he decided it was fitting to perform a piece that talked about the much-dreaded student loans. However, he also performed pieces related to his parents, Mark Wahlberg and burgers (he is the biggest burger enthusiast I have ever seen) and finished with his most known poem, “What Type of Asian Are You?” Dang’s combination of strong voice and intense body language made the audience laugh, moan and snap all at the same time.
The way von Radics performed her pieces was stylistically different from Dang’s, being gentler and more elegant, but just as powerful. They included topics such as her three little sisters, sickness and the poem that is used as the title to her book, “Mouthful of Forevers.” All the pieces weren’t just enjoyable, but could also be felt on a very strong emotional level just by the tone of Radics’ voice alone.
Once the showcase was finished, what ended the night was a Q&A with the guests. While there were some great questions (how did they meet, how to get involved in spoken word, has Alex found the greatest burger yet), there was one audience member who asked about the difference between more contemporary poetry and spoken word poetry.
Dang answered this one, saying, “With the poem on a page, you’re creating a world that people can look back on, but when you’re reciting a poem on stage, you’re creating a world that lasts only three minutes.”
Being a member of UR, I’ve performed a number of times, and never really thought of it that way. Spoken word can be considered a bit avant-garde, since it is an art form in which both the performer and the audience experience a sort of fleeting catharsis through words. Either way, it’s a very moving experience through and through.