Poet-politicians share prose, protests at open mic

Seattle University hosted its first spoken word event last Friday, marking the beginnings of a poetic revival on campus.

Co-sponsored by the Student Events and Activities Council (SEAC) and the Seattle U Poetics and Prose Collaborative, the event hosted roughly 30 students in the LeRoux Room on Friday night. More than 10 students stepped up to the microphone to speak.

For SEAC and Poetics and Prose organizers alike, the event was important because it drew attention to a popular, but often hidden art at Seattle U: writing.

"[Over] the last four years I've been involved in conversations with hundreds of people at this school and ... what I've deduced from all of that is that the vast majority of people do write and the vast majority of those writers write something of substance," said James Nolan, co-founder of the Poetics and Prose Collaborative.

Although journalism and English majors were welcome, organizers hoped to attract writers of a non-academic persuasion. The purpose of the event was to provide an expressive outlet for anyone and everyone with a voice.

"The point of this is to bring people out of the dark," said Nick Peterson, the other co-founder of the Poetics and Prose Collaborative.

Belonging to an off-campus poetics and prose community called the Seascum Collective, Nolan and Peterson first began hosting monthly open-mic nights two years ago. Held in private residences, the Seascum open-mic nights attracted an audience of 40 to 50 students and Seattleites not affiliated with the university. Eventually SEAC caught word of Seascum's success and teamed up with Poetics and Prose to plan an on-campus event.

Nolan and Peterson tried to emulate the home-y atmosphere of the Seascum open-mic nights in the LeRoux Room. Casting shadows of the performers, two antique lamps served as the event's primary lighting. Coffee brewed throughout the evening. Warm and intimate, Nolan hoped the environment would make students feel comfortable.

"The whole point is to make it very non-hierarchical, very non-judgmental, very supportive, very open to any kind of definition of what art is," Nolan said. "Art is really just what it means to the person."

Art meant distinctly different things to each of Friday night's performers. Some students employed poetic devices while others spoke conversationally. The focus ranged from heavy themes like love and death to snow days and flirting.

Freshman Emma Dehlson called out to the love of her life in a piece called "Could It Be You." For Dehlson, as for many who love spoken word, art means truth.

"Spoken word is a different way of explaining something you find to be true. It's very passionate," said Dehlson.

Throughout the quarter, Poetics and Prose plans to host workshops and readings by local poets. Nolan and Peterson, also the co-founders of the Seattle U Chapter of Occupy Seattle, are currently organizing a revolutionary poetry and prose anthology and a guerilla theatre event. Described as "a political spectacle in theatrical form intended to provoke thought related to an issue," Nolan and Peterson hope that such an event will steer the Seattle U community away from normative definitions of politics and poetry.

"Those terms are much broader than the canonized interpretation," Nolan said. "Political expression when done right, with the right kind of love and the right kind of human connectivity, is poetry."

Kellie may be reached at kcox@su-spectator.com