Tears, laughter, and anticipation ran rampant throughout the air as Denice Frohman, award winning poet, writer, performer, and educator, performed spoken word poetry under a single spotlight. Her clear and well-articulated words echoed through the room as students watched in wonder.
Frohman performed twenty pieces of poetry last Saturday during the Spoken Word Poetry Presentation in Kemper Auditorium. Her performance was organized by Alianza Latina, an organization that represents Latinx students on campus.
“[Frohman] does a lot of work on the intersectionality between [being] Latino and LGBTQIA+, and I don’t think that’s something that’s very much talked about. Being able to bring that here and start a conversation about that was very impactful,” said Gerardo Segura ’18, co-head of Alianza Latina.
A popular piece of the night was dedicated to a “piraguero,” a Puerto Rican word that refers to a street vendor of snow cones, and discusses injustice towards laborers. In the poem, the “piraguero” makes delicious ice treats in a cart, handing them out to kids after school for a dollar.
“I found it very powerful [that] she was able to connect the simple child idea of a snow cone to the idea of those workers who go unappreciated or unknown, like she said, [in the field of] manual labor,” said Segura.
Frohman describes poetry as an attempt to describe her emotions and put into words what she is feeling and then, in turn, share her stories with others.
“To me, poetry is this sort of attempt to say the unsayable. It’s an attempt to speak to our living condition… How do I try to name what I’m feeling in this moment, in a way where, without you even knowing me, you could enter a poem too, and you might be able to see yourself or find yourself? It’s so deeply connected to men in humanity in our rage and our joy, as art is in general. I think about that question all the time,” said Frohman in a question and answer session following her performance.
Frohman credits her experiences in athletics as a child as a key aspect in helping her feel comfortable sharing her stories on stage. When she was young, she participated in a variety of different sports, including basketball and softball.
“Sport is a performance art; there is an audience at every game. There are athletes that make decisions, not just on training, but on their intuition. My athletic training and putting myself in front of a crowd — I didn’t even know I was sort of starting to build the creative and internal muscles to even do that [starting from my childhood]. So, when I got to poetry, the writing and the performance happened at the same time. I was scared, but I wanted to do it because there was something about saying [my stories] out loud that made me feel less alone… And that weighed more than the fear of not doing it,” said Frohman.
One piece of advice Frohman has for young writers struggling to find inspiration is to not be afraid of taking risks and making mistakes.
“Everything is not weighted on the first try, and I feel like you have to talk to yourself that way because there’s something preventing you from taking a risk. Writing is risky. You have to bet on yourself. Trust your intuition, and so I try, whenever I’m not trusting my intuition, to lower the stakes, [like,] ‘Alright Denice, this is just a little poem you’re writing in your hotel room. It doesn’t need to be [perfect],’ ” said Frohman.