About a month ago, I received an e-mail from the Honors Program announcing that Honors Mosaic, a group dedicated to promoting diversity in the Honors Program, would be hosting writer and spoken word poet Phil Kaye for a writing workshop and performance. I had never encountered his work before, but I immediately knew I wanted to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, especially after learning about his impressive background. To give some context, Phil is a Japanese-American poet who has published two books; has performed in twenty countries; was a National Poetry Slam finalist; has worked in maximum security prisons leading poetry workshops; and is co-director of Project VOICE, an organization that partners with schools to bring poetry to the classroom.
As if Phil’s accolades weren’t enough, on the day of the writing workshop, as soon as I entered the room, I noticed how friendly, genuine, and funny he was (besides just being an all-around cool guy, complete with a man bun). He even made a point to remember everyone’s name after only hearing each name once, and throughout the workshop, he was really supportive when students shared their ideas.
He began the workshop by describing it as a “crash course in spoken word poetry.” To gather inspiration for poem ideas, he had us first make a list of three things we knew to be true — the more personal to us, the better. He explained that lists are a great way to beat writer’s block; if you don’t know what to write, pick a topic (that could be “things I know to be true” or “things I regret,” for example) and make a list to get your feelings down on paper. After that, he had us pick one of those topics and add as many sensory details as we could while creating a poem: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile feelings. Then, we focused on how to perform a spoken-word poem and brainstormed tips, from becoming aware of your fidgeting to slowing down your speech. Phil also asked us to do a fun activity in which we got into a circle, picked a word from our respective poems, and created an action to go with it, going around the circle and repeating each person’s word and action after them. Finally, the workshop culminated in performing our poems for each other and giving each other feedback. I had a blast at the workshop while also learning a lot about writing and performing poetry, from how to gain inspiration for what to write about to how to effectively perform my poetry.
After the workshop, that evening, I was also lucky to see Phil’s performance in the Trabant theater. I really enjoyed watching him interpret his own poetry, observing the actions he chose for certain words and the tone of voice he used for certain lines. His poems were full of vivid images and different tones, from humorous to poignant to sorrowful to joyful, and ranged from topics such as the cultural differences of his grandfathers to the streets of New York City. I have never witnessed a spoken word poetry performance before, and hearing Phil’s poems come alive was a wonderful experience!
After the performance, I had the opportunity to get a signed copy of Phil’s most recent book, Date and Time, and even snagged a picture (as you can see above)! I am so glad Honors Mosaic hosted Phil Kaye at UD for a fun and fulfilling evening of poetry!