Poetry workshop encourages student expression

Poetry is characterized as a creative, rhythmical and imaginative way to express certain thoughts, ideas or feelings. It’s a compelling display of emotion that evokes a certain amount of empathy from an audience. Poetry is a form of creative writing that allows people to express their ideas in a thought provoking way that may draw on positive, negative, angry or happy emotions.The HUB, an integral center for diversity and and creativity located in Sonoma State University’s student center, hosted a poetry workshop last Wednesday, led by successful poet and hip-hop artist Dahlak Brathwaite.

Brathwaite is from Sacramento, CA and graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in English and Dramatic Studies. Well known for his talent with spoken word poetry, Brathwaite appeared on multiple seasons of Russell Simmon’s Def Poetry Jam on HBO, as well as winning the Brave New Voice Poetry Slam. More recently he has been known for his musical projects “Dual Consciousness” and “Spiritrials”.

Considering the prevalence of American politics right now, the exercises throughout the the workshop reflected that theme.

Brathwaite began the night by having an open dialogue with the crowd about their thoughts on the current election. 

“What are some American Values?,” said Dahlak. 

The first exercise of the workshop was to brainstorm a list of values that represented America, then a list that represented presidential candidate Donald Trump, then one that representedyourself.  

Brathwaite highlighted how the purpose of the exercise was to analyze what it meant to be American.

The second exercise taught the crowd how he embodies or imitates different people or characters by mimicking their rhythmic speech, movements, and voice. 

“Trump is a character I’m looking to adapt,” Brathwaite said. “If you could switch perspectives with Trump and apologize, what would you say?” 

Essentially he asked the audience to embody the character of Donald Trump and write an apology letter to the nation from his perspective. The audience quickly began diligently writing the letters on their notepads. 

“It’s healing to write in his voice,” Brathwaite said. 

He stressed the importance of why it’s healing to creatively express your ideas especially during a time of hardship. 

“Art in general helps people cope with tough situations. Sometimes art serves as a two-sided coin where you can flip tragedy or pain into something beautiful. Poetry makes that pain transformative,” Brathwaite said.

After the exercises, a poetry slam took place where participants were invited to share their poetry.  Kaysen Pyle, a freshman, performed an impassioned poem which discussed what it felt like to have a disability. 

“I [performed] my poem because of the election and what’s happening right now. I wanted to express the things about people that should be brought to light, rather than stay hidden,” Pyle said.

The HUB is known for hosting events catered to cultivating an environment of diversity, creativity, and inclusivity for students. 

“It’s valuable for students, especially those who identify as people of color, queer, or LGBTQ; poetry workshops like these allow people that embody the minority perspective to publish their ideas in a safe space,” Student Assistant and Spoke Co-Host Nanette Reyes said.

Brathwaite frequently tours various college campuses hosting poetry workshops for students and performing spoken word pieces. 

“College is a fertile ground for resistance and movement. Connecting with students is like watering a blossoming flower and contributing to their active search of understanding themselves,”  Brathwaite said.