Standing on the mini stage of small, homey cafe called El Taller with the microphone in front of him, Ekan Belo-Osagie ’19 began reciting his pantun, a poetic form in which lines are repeated, about peer pressure in a grave, hushed tone, maintaining a steady cadence. Every third Thursday of the month, members of Word, a spoken-word poetry club on campus, congregate in the cafe, regularly participating in the open-mic sessions that are free and open to the public.
“It was impressive… it was about peer pressure, so the pantun was good for that because it repeated a lot of the same lines over and over again, kind of the way pressure feels [when] you’re being pushed into something,” said Emma Staffaroni, Faculty Advisor to Word and Instructor in English.
Propelled by his love for spoken word poetry and his Art-225C project, where he filmed himself performing poetry, Dakoury Godo-Solo ’17 founded Word three years ago during his Junior year with Rosie Poku ’17, Chaya Holch ’17, and Cam Mesinger ’16. The club aims to foster a relaxed, open-minded environment for people to freely express original thoughts of any topic through spoken-word poetry.
“People enjoy spoken-word and slam poetry when they hear it, but there’s not a lot of opportunity for them to hear it in a real consistent and structured way. I felt like it was underrepresented and underappreciated and I just wanted to share something that I really liked with the community,” said Godo-Solo. “I think the way life at Andover is sort of structured and the pace of it does not allow a lot of time for sort of kicking back and writing a poem or two because it feels like a waste of time, and you feel guilty, at least in my experience. [The role of Word is] to sort of facilitate the space but also bring slam poetry to people who are interested.”
During club meetings, members are introduced to various types of spoken word poetry. They watch videos of example performances before working on and performing their own poems as well as engage in exercises to improve their spoken word poetry writing and delivery.
“I feel like with regular poetry, I’m kind of locked into this box, but with spoken word, I can just defy all guidelines and expectations. Sometimes, people like to be animated [while performing]. Sometimes, they like to be themselves. I think that’s my favorite part, watching each person find their own identity,” said Aissata Bah ’19, a club member.
Word has collaborated with many different clubs and organizations on campus. Last Friday, they partnered with the Producers to create performance opportunities for the club members and promote spoken-word poetry. On a Wednesday night in Fall Term, Word also organized an open-mic in the Addison for the first time, featuring musical and spoken-word performances.
“What was really exciting [about partnering with the Addison] was that it was a nonstop stream of people just getting up and wanting to do their poetry, and they had not had the opportunity just because they weren’t given the space for it, so we’re going to try to do one of those every term,” said Godo-Solo.
In the near future, Word hopes to organize an interscholastic poetry slam to create more opportunities for people to experience spoken-word or SLAM poetry.
“There’s been talk, I think, for about two years now, about hosting a interscholastic poetry slam, [with] other schools like Brooks, Governor’s, Exeter. There’s this poetry conference that has been happening at least since my [Junior] year at [Governor’s], which a lot of schools are invited over, so we’ll probably invite the same schools and maybe a few extras to our event,” said Godo-Solo.
Editor’s Note: Chaya Holch is a Managing Editor for The Phillipian.