GVSU to host poetry slam

Duane Emery

They say poetry is meant to be seen and heard, rather than read. The upcoming Grand Valley State University poetry slam, Cafe Mahogany, offers students and professional poets the opportunity to experience such poetry as well as socialize, listen to live music and enjoy a free dinner.

Cafe Mahogany will be held on Saturday, Nov. 15 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Room 2250 at the Kirkhof Center.

“This is our biggest event for the fall semester,” said Brianna Pannell, president of the Black Student Union, the host of the event. “This year we have 14 performers – 11 students and three guests.”

Cafe Mahogany was started four years ago as a forum for poets to share their work with the campus community.

“We just wanted a safe space for us all to recite poetry,” Pannell said. “We felt needed to be heard by other people. We didn’t want to make it a judgment or pressure zone, this is a safe space for you to come and try out for people to listen.”

Pannell said performance is an important part of poetry, and good poetry is made through reflection on one’s life.

“I believe great poetry comes from experience and personal thought,” she said. “A lot of our participants this year talk about school issues, life experience, emotional issues, their narrative put into rhythmic tone.”

She said poets will cover topics such as relationships, materialistic things and love.

Not all of the performers will be reciting poetry, however. Some GVSU students will also be singing.

“I like to perform because getting people to relate to the music I find interesting and connecting with audiences are feelings that I treasure,” said James Williams, one of the performers.

Williams will be singing “Heaven,” by John Legend. He said rather than being nervous, he is anxious to showcase his talents.

“The attendance of this event is nothing to take lightly,” he said.

While performing in front of an audience can be a stressful and scary thing, Williams said it is worth it to be able to express himself in an artistic way that may otherwise go unappreciated.

Pannell agrees, adding that it is crucial to perform poetry and art to fully appreciate it.

“It is important to read poetry out loud because you can convey emotion you can’t when reading to yourself,” Pannell said. “You can be more animated within the text of the poem.”

The three-hour event will be broken into two sections, with an intermission for participants to socialize and enter to win giveaways. Dinner will be free of charge, and will be catered by campus dining.

“When people come to Cafe Mahogany, they will take in the atmosphere, hear great performances and enjoy a delicious free meal,” Williams said. “It is going to be a night to remember.”