Students from UC Santa Barbara’s Spoken Word class performed at Left Coast Books in a private outdoor area behind the book store on Friday, May 20. The setting was intimate and the atmosphere casual as audience members reclined on plastic chairs and sipped white wine.
Spoken Word has become increasingly popular on campus due to the prominent Spoken Word class, Art 137, led by Spoken Word artist and photographer Kip Fulbeck. All students must produce and memorize their own solo or group pieces and the final project is a performance in front of an audience. Students are given the opportunity to critique their own pieces and even mingle with well-known poets. Last quarter students met famous poet and spoken-word artist Saul Williams, who performed in February.
The performance at Left Coast Books featured students who were new to Spoken Word, a few veterans who had completed the class a few times and one performer who had taken part in the very first Spoken Word class taught by Fulbeck.
Students performed poems of essentially every subject: lust, heartbreak, death, hipsters, tomatoes, superficiality and even “how to be a man.” Some poems had the audience in stitches, others had them hanging on every word. Many of the pieces managed to flawlessly combine trivial issues with serious matters –the pieces by Chanel Miller, Amanda Rothstein and class MVP Shardé Davis particularly achieved this.
The show kicked off with a fabulous opening number from Sina Dailey, a heartfelt and highly rhythmic piece about the throes of love and devotion. Her smooth, rapid and strategically staccato delivery was reminiscent of hip-hop, but not quite as rough around the edges.
Chanel Miller performed next in her peculiar fashion, speaking almost in a monotonic drawl and casually slipping humor into her poem, all while wearing a deadpan expression. Her first piece concerned sibling rivalry and adolescent melodrama — two rather serious issues that were cleverly delivered alongside humor and unexpected profanity, which really drove the message home. One of the funniest lines from her piece was the comparison of hair collecting in the shower drain to a “small woodland creature,” which had the audience howling with laughter.
Other highlights from the show included Teagan Miller’s ode to a delicious tomato, which led into an esoteric revelation regarding chi, yoga and the relationship between body and mind.
“I like to write about pseudo-spiritual stuff and I really love words. Wordplay is always fun. There is just so much you can do with language. Being on stage is really a rush, you feel more alive. You’re hyper aware of your body and everyone’s watching you. It’s a lot of fun,” said Miller, a fourth-year English major. Miller cited Sylvia Plath, Anis Mojgani and Saul Williams as her primary poetic inspirations.
Desmond Wilder, a fourth-year Literature Major, performed a boisterous poem about “how to be a man,” which included tips such as growing two mustaches (“doublestache”) and using the extra one as a “boomerang to destroy your enemies.” Needless to say, his piece was a hit with the audience who didn’t stop laughing for a second.
“I love it when people are funny. I love stand-up comedy but being on stage is nerve-wracking! There are all these people and you can’t see them because all the lights are on you! And people are laughing at things you didn’t think they’d laugh at. It’s the best thing ever,” remarked Wilder, who cites Billy Collins, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Saul Williams as his poetic inspirations.
His advice to aspiring poets?
“Go out there and fail,” Wilder said. “Be a really confident failure and just keep going and be persistent, or else you’re never going to make it.”
Demi Anter, a first-year Literature major who helped organize the show, performed a wonderful piece which poked fun at hipster culture. In the piece, she lists all of the hipster essentials: Pabst Blue Ribbon, horn-rimmed glasses, a disdain for the government and even pubic hair trimmed in the shape of a mustache. Needless to say, it was a huge hit with the audience (even the hipsters were chuckling). Her second piece, which closed the show, was an existential adventure unfolding the difficulties of immigration, domestic abuse, the face of God and her penchant for knowledge with a wonderful mantra: “Everything is beautiful.” And it was.
“I really like performing. It’s great in comparison to writing for the page. When you’re on stage performing there’s this interaction between you and the audience that you don’t get when you’re just reading. If you’re at UCSB you should definitely check out Kip’s class. It helps to have a group of people around you who can see through your bullshit and help you to tweak things. Go out there and start performing!” said Anter, who is inspired by Charles Bukowski, Saul Williams, Taylor Mali and Kanye West.
Overall, the show was amazing. It seemed as if all of the students had performed perfectly without any mistakes. The variation in subject matter meant there was never a dull moment as the pieces explored the entire spectrum of human emotion. The venue was quite small and welcoming. It seemed to be a wonderful performance space for aspiring artists. It is very inspiring that our very own UCSB students have cultivated a home for Spoken Word poetry on and around our campus.