The Newman Community hosted a lunch with spoken-word poet Micah Bournes on Monday, September 19 in the Chapel Basement. Bournes, although an extremely talented writer and speaker from Long Beach, California, did not always write poetry.
Bournes began the lunch by explaining how he often felt unintelligent or academically inadequate as a child compared to his five brilliant siblings. Although Bournes struggled in school, his life began to turn around once he attended an open mic show; he found tremendous freedom hearing someone else express something he could relate to, and he liked the community and honesty he found there.
“Human beings are the only creatures in the universe that tell stories,” Bournes said.For Bournes, a large part of storytelling involves utilizing creativity to better understand God. In explaining this, he referenced a passage of the Bible that particularly inspired him to be humble enough to feel small when defending his faith: “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1).
As his talk progressed, Bournes shared the struggles he faced after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in college. People would frequently approach him and offer their prayers, but one woman in particular stuck out to him, to the point where he was inspired to write a poem about her. The poem, which Bournes performed with great passion and energy, explored the idea of praying without expecting anything in return.
Bournes continued to share stories of his experiences in a “Bible college,” his passion for hip-hop as an art form and the challenges he faced with his faith. He presented an interesting idea for writers who are also people of great faith: God employs creative language, poetry and storytelling to reveal himself. Sometimes, the metaphors may even be extremely simple and obvious.
“People feel the need to be profound, or a desire to be an intellectual, but some of the most profound people I’ve ever met have been uneducated,” Bournes said.
He continued to explain how poetry worthy of respect also includes hip-hop, not just Shakespearean works, which are often referenced when talking about poetry.
Junior Alec Hufford, a Religion concentrator who is involved with religious life at Colgate, adored Bournes’ performance, finding it to be a transformative experience.
“Micah’s faith is so clearly demonstrated by his radical life of discipleship, utilizing music, poetry and strong preaching, to proclaim God’s truth and love,” Hufford said.Similarly, sophomore Olivia Haskell was inspired by Bournes and appreciated his honesty.
“I really appreciated his authenticity as an artist,” Haskell said. “He doesn’t water down how incredible Jesus is and how radical it is to have faith in His message. At the same time, he doesn’t gloss over the doubts and struggles that Christians experience.”To close his talk, Bournes encouraged any writers to read “Letters to A Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke and “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland, to seek truth and introspection through words, and to write about what everyday life has to offer. He ended the talk with a quote from Rilke.
“‘If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place,’”Bournes said.