By Megan Sims
Speak Out Loud’s inclusive environment draws many artistic talents.
Curled up in a chair in Ticknor Lounge, I put the finishing touches on a poem meant to capture the ethos of a heartbreak just 24 hours old. With a black moleskin notebook on the table in front of me next to my camera, I smile and begin to type.
“I am poet, photographer, ethnographer, journalist.”
On Saturday night I played many roles, taking pictures, notes, quotes, and of course writing and performing my own poetry. Under other circumstances, this might have been a cause of stress, but I felt strangely calm. It wasn’t just the low, warm light of Ticknor. Something about being in the space with Speak Out Loud made me feel inherently more relaxed.
Speak Out Loud, Harvard’s only spoken word poetry group, has been inviting the Harvard community into the art form for the past several years. From hosting slams to open mics to workshops, SOL strives for an inclusive community. Anwar Omeish’19 said “I think the Speak Out Loud space is always a really comfortable space to share what you have, whether it’s actually a completed work or something that’s on your mind.”
Moses Kim’18, the MC for the event, was truly the star of the night. Interjecting short poems between the performers, he owned the stage, moving energetically and often removing the mic from its stand (the only one to do so during the night). Each introduction of a poet was met with effusive praise from Kim, and each poet received validation for the work. Never once did one get the sense that these sentiments were anything but genuine. I was surprised to learn at the end of the night that this was his first time MC-ing.
What makes Speak Out Loud great is the people. Humphrey Obuobi ’18 said, “I definitely think that Speak Out Loud is a very important organization on campus, both for creative expression and for getting a lot of important issues and human experiences out there.” This emphasis on each individual person’s story gives Speak Out Loud a unique perspective on campus. The focus is on promoting art rather than curating it. Attendees are encouraged to share anything from published work to stories about their day. And the people involved, from those who run events to those who share, give life to this mission.
As an art form, spoken word encourages engagement. Audience members are told to react to work they appreciate with snaps, stomps, and “mmms” as the poet reads. The audience thus becomes a part of the piece not just as consumer but also as enhancer. Speak Out Loud, in keeping with this tradition, seeks to elevate voices, often voices that aren’t heard.
Throughout the night we heard poems about interpersonal and institutional racism, hookups, breakups, and more. The overarching sentiment was one of comfort and ease—there’s no pressure to share, but anyone is welcome. SOL creates a space that validates the work of artists, regardless of subject and polish.
The night ended as it began – with music playing. As board members took down the mics, someone’s iPod blasted the Hamilton soundtrack, and everyone sang along. People lingered, conversations flowed, and I, and everyone, felt at ease.
Megan Sims ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is multi-talented.