Safe space provided for writers
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 00:09
Thursday night, Poetic Release had their first poetry slam of the year. Poetic Release is headed by Devin Samuels, who initially came up with the idea for the group in his freshman year. This is the organization’s second full year, and they are still going strong. There was a 14-person lineup last night, with an equal mix of spoken word artists, freestyle rappers and singer-songwriters. There was even a good amalgam of ages, from the young freshman to the more seasoned adults.
Samuels led them off with a spoken word poem entitled “Child At War/Laws of the President” about the desensitization of military violence in homes, and how war takes away the humanity in its soldiers. This, he explains emphatically, is not the result of the “Africa Problem,” nor is it any specific country’s fault. This has been going on for generations, without any sign of slowing down or even plateauing. The theme of the glorification of war was also covered by another poet, who passionately described a boy unable to find a career after being discharged by the military. After the work he has done, he is only able to find a job flipping burgers at a local restaurant, and is regularly tormented by a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that keeps him shaking with nightmares whenever he tries to sleep. She angrily stated that while America might decorate their cars and stores with yellow ribbons declaring how much they “support the troops,” but that this support does not extend to what happens after their service.
There was also a poem performed by Faith Vicinanza called “Where Does The Road Lead?” Vicinanza performed on Connecticut’s slam team in 1994 in a competition in Nashville. Her poem was a witty, cheekily-worded response to a poem about a man’s desire to be constantly traveling and his achingly appreciation for wanderlust. Vicinanza sniped that the road was no more comforting than “the cold bed of an old whore,” and cleverly disabled that rose-tinted perception that living on the road is some fantastic adventure reminiscent of Kerouac’s long-winded monologues.
Here, in this space, there is no embarrassment or any abashed ducking of the head. Everyone snaps their fingers both during and after the performances, there is no chance of catching a rude whisper or any rolling of the eyes. The audience obligingly bobs their hands to the rhythm of the rappers’ flows and gamely answers back “Huskies!” to one man’s exultant cry of “UConn!” This is an entirely safe space for performers. While they might have been at the mercy of their audience in any other event, the members of Poetic Release here receive a confidence boost. This was all the more clear when Samuels punched the air with his fist and roared, “Hey! I think somebody’s watching!” The audience, well-versed in the art of Poetic Release’s call-and-return, rears back and gleefully shouts, “No shame!” And in this center, there certainly is not.