This weekend’s spoken word extravaganza, “Pulse,” sponsored by the Asian-American Students Alliance, will be all about defying expectations and stereotypes.
While your previous experience with poetry out loud may only be your tweedy English professor hacking out Milton in front of the class, the emerging and popular spoken word circuit is working to change that impression.
The phenomena of “slam” poetry, recently made popular by Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam” on Broadway and HBO, features an electrifying mix of poetry, vocal sounds, movement and an arousing audience reaction that puts the artists’ work on a level that is both more intimate and in-your-face that traditional poetry readings.
Headlining at the “Pulse” performance will be word artist Beau Sia of “Def Poetry Jam” fame.
“I’ve seen him a couple times before and he’s amazing,” Nathan Kitada ’05, a member of the performance group Jook Songs, said. “It’s neat to see Asian-American performers on stage — it’s a group that really needs a voice, and it’s not something you see very often.”
Members of the AASA and spoken word aficionados alike were thrilled with the choice.
“I’ve never actually seen ‘Def Poetry Jam,’ but I’ve heard nothing but great things about [Sia]. Out of a cohort of 12 performers, his was always the name that I heard about, the standout poet everyone raved about — we’re really fortunate to have him here,” AASA Moderator Chris Lapinig ’07 said.
Lapining is a staff reporter for the News.
The fact that many stereotypes about Asian-Americans include concepts about being docile, obedient, quiet and meek was something that the AASA particularly wanted to address — head on — in organizing “Pulse.”
“Spoken word is something that thrives especially in the Asian American community,” Lapinig said. “Traditionally we’re considered a really silent group that just internalizes what bothers us in society, even though we recognize what needs to be changed. It’s a very loaded thing to see Asian-Americans being loud about problems.”
Jook Songs, Yale’s seven-year-old writing and performance group, will also be featured in “Pulse” this weekend. One of the featured pieces, written by Cassandra Harris ’06 and performed by Harris and Sunny Kim ’06, will address the idea of “invisibility” — about the invisibility of Asian-Americans in society, the invisibility of sexual minorities and the invisibility of class issues.
“Pulse” will also feature other student groups — both on-campus and from other universities in the area. Hailing from Brown University, the Filipina spoken word group Arkipelag-a will present a little flavor of the tropics, and 101 Project, a performing arts collective comprised of members from around the country, will be represented by Temple University’s Hanalei Ramos.
The nascent spoken word group Word, dedicated to promoting the art form on campus, will also be performing. Founded at the freshman orientation program Cultural Connections this fall, Word was the brainchild of Crystal Paul-Laughinghouse ’08 who saw how well-received an “open-mic” night was at CC and realized that Yale was lacking a spoken word outlet on campus.
Three Word members will be performing this weekend, including Rashaud Hannah ’08, whose work focuses, fittingly, on the issue of silence and voice.
“As you grow up a lot of the time, kids are forced into a lesson plan, to stay on topic, don’t ask so many questions, just let me get through this class,” Hannah said. “Curiosity — a lot of times it’s not encouraged. They just want you to sit there and listen. I’m addressing the issue of adults trying to silence kids for asking too many questions.”
Pulse, then, represents a multitude of voices, perspectives and universities — representing both amateur and professional wordsmiths and a variety of cultural backgrounds.
“Something I hope the audience will take away is the richness and complexity of culture, self-identity and personal experience,” said Henry Ng ’07, Asian Pacific Alliance heritage chair and a main organizer of the event.
“I also want people to know that there is great diversity and talent within the Asian American community,” Ng said.