Clicks, snaps, laughs, claps, woos and animals noises echoed throughout the Titan Student Union Underground Pub as poets shared intimate verses of prose that resonated with audience members like trap music resonates with millennials during Associated Students Inc.’s “Speak Yo Truth” event Tuesday night.
ASI has hosted open-mic events in the pub for many years, and even recently featured guests like Mike “Hoodprofet” Davis and Rowie Shebala.
Titans, past and present, welcomed legendary spoken word poet Rudy Francisco to the stage. As an accomplished artist, Francisco has won various poetry slam competitions and has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Francisco has also appeared on TV One’s “Verses and Flow” and shared the stage with Jill Scott and Jordin Sparks.
Francisco performs at universities across the country, and works with aspiring poets to help them transform their creative urges into artful masterpieces.
“I think my biggest advice for young poets is to study the craft. See who else is doing it and see who is doing it at a high level. Then start with what you know and your own personal experiences,” Francisco said.
Francisco touched on what it was like to be an African American in the United States as well as love, loss and being an awkward teenager.
“I had a great time tonight. A lot of universities don’t have an open mic. Tonight was a shining example of if you put it on people will come,” Francisco said.
Commonality among the performers was found in self-deprecation. Those brave enough to take the stage used humor to juxtapose the seriousness of the topics they touched on, like cultural heritage, bipolar disorder, sexuality, sexual abuse and societal injustices.
“It’s important to host events like this because otherwise so many really great voices would go unheard,” said Gabriel Taggard, second year English major who performed on stage.
With Valentine’s day just one day away, poets found commonality in loneliness — the irony of which was not lost on the performers.
Artists ripped open the free bags of Cheetos as well as themselves to reveal the struggles they overcome in their day-to-day lives; struggles that were too personal to share with anyone but a stage, a spotlight and a working microphone.
Echoing the thoughts of those who were on stage, graduate student and screenwriting major McKinley “Blakghost” Bundick said his favorite thing about the event was the “safe space mentality.”
Others simply came to marinate in their thoughts and the beautifully disturbed imagery that could only come from a tortured soul trying to escape their pain, perhaps in search of a personal connection.
The crowd was supportive and gave the performers an unspoken understanding. Most performers took the stage feeling jittery or laughing nervously, but as they unveiled their coveted works, a surge of confidence possessed them.
As the poets delivered their final stanzas, their released spirits returned to their bodies and they reverted back to their normal selves, almost as if they were unaware of what just took place on the stage. At the same time, it’s as if an overwhelming weight had been lifted off their shoulders.
Even for those who had the courage to share their most painful experiences, there was a sense of happiness from the performers — happiness that only a pen and paper could provide to any writer, and a love of poetry.