Feb 21, 2019

Poetry jam to be revived on campus

Poets and performers paraded across the The Bucket’s stage Friday night during a kick-off event hailed as a revival of the once popular poetry jam.

Kalisha Goodwin, a graduate student and lead student coordinator at Fresno State’s Cross Cultural and Gender Center CCGC), who helped plan the kick-off said at one time monthly poetry jams were well-known events on campus.

“It used to be huge,” Goodwin said. “A lot of students would come and it was important, especially among African-American students. Part of my job at the center is to bring back events that were once popular, so we wanted to re-introduce the poetry jam this semester and hopefully keep it going every month through the next year.”

Friday’s event drew students, community members and more than a dozen poets. Topics ranged from self confidence to ex-boyfriends and from cultural experiences to farts.

Creative writing student Cleary Mallard was behind a piece on flatulence. He said he likes openmics and poetry jams as a means of sharing his writing.

“It’s fun to share with the community,” Mallard said. “I like writing comedy and making people laugh. I want people to be happy, you know, and if it takes a poem about farts to do that, so be it.”

Mallard was one of the more veteran writers at the event; he mentioned that one of his pieces will appear in next month’s San Joaquin Review.

Lack of experience was not a deterrent, however, many took the mic claiming it was their very first time. Open-mic virgin Marcus Castro took to the stage without a planned set and ended up just wishing the crowd happiness. Another first-timer shared his experience of being transgender and analyzed the depth of meaning human hair can hold.

The poetry jam was not exclusive to reading written word. Among the night’s entertainers was a violinist. After sampling Mozart and fiddle music, the violinist treated the crowd to modern hip-hop and pop music teasing out renditions of Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” and The Weeknd’s “Earned It.”

Goodwin said fliers were created for the event, but most of the performers were found through word-of-mouth. She personally recruited the violinist.

“It was totally by chance,” Goodwin said. “I just saw him walking across the street from state with a violin case and asked if he might be interested.”

CCGC Director Dr. Francine Oputa said the event was great start to reviving Fresno State’s rich history of poetry jams that took a one year hiatus last year after a nearly 10-year history. Oputa even took to the stage herself sharing a “Dream Medley” with parts and inspiration from poets like Langston Hughes and Regina Chaney.

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