On Tuesday, October 3, instead of finding students devouring their evening meals at the Edge Caf?e, observers discovered a group of people gathered to satisfy their appetite for poetry. The rows of seats set up in the dining area were occupied by students listening to the voices of several brave, fellow classmates who set the stage for the main attraction, a group of poets from New York City known as El Grito de Poetas, or The Cry of the Poets. They ruled the stage.
El Grito’s performance began at 8 p.m and lasted over an hour. It was put on by the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and was sponsored by the English department, African and Latin American Studies department, the Office of Undergraduate Studies, Multicultural Affairs and the department of Romance Languages and Literates. Senior Andrea Harrison, President of LASO, said that El Grito was brought in to help celebrate Latino Heritage Month.
The night kicked off with three ‘gate students who stepped up on stage to show off their talent and a passion for the art of poetry. Harrison said that the students volunteered to share their work, and that “it was open to anyone who wanted to step up.”
The first performer was ‘gate senior Nzinga Job, who read a poem of her own creation in both Spanish and English, and sang part of a song by the Latina artist Shakira. The next performer was senior Jon Constantino, who also shared one of his poems. His performance was an excellent lead in to El Grito, as it brought up many controversial issues in American culture. Sophomore Brian Haghini followed with a piece he wrote concerning a romantic relationship. At the end of the show, another student volunteered to perform a powerful piece which was entitled “My Digression.”
The next number belonged to three members of El Grito. The group has performed at many other universities, along with churches schools, and AIDS facilities. “They like to do a lot of work in the community and with the youth,” Harrison said. “One of their mottos is that they ‘stand for keeping alive the oral traditions of yesterday.'” Harrison said that LASO chose to have El Grito perform because of their poetry. “They talk about issues pertaining to everyone,” she said.
That the performance would contain explicit content was advertised ahead of time as a warning to those who might not feel comfortable attending. This warning certainly held true. The three poets, representative of varying beliefs and backgrounds, brought up many controversial topics throughout the performance, creating graphic and disturbing images with their words. However, judging by the audience’s nodding, cheering and standing ovation at the end, the content seemed to empower rather than disgust. In fact, it was the harshness of the language that really made the performance. The poets discussed not only the pitfalls of American political, social and popular culture, but also more light-hearted topics such as love, sex and music, in a way that demonstrated passion, intense emotion and serious reflection on what goes on around us in our everyday life.
The poets performed standing up and matched their body movements to the fast-paced rhythm of the spoken words. Their energy was endless as they sped through numerous topics, from criticizing George Bush to talking about sickness and poverty to discussing their personal identities and heritages. One particularly powerful poem was about watching a young African girl, sick almost to the point of death with AIDS, fight for her right to live.
Senior Bernadette Torres, Vice President of LASO, said that she thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the way that the poets spoke to the audience. “They were amazing,” she said. “They were energetic and engaging and could reach us on different levels.”
Torres also commented on how down-to-earth the performers were. “They are people just like us,” she said. “They are just using their talents to spread awareness.”