The Art of Spoken Strength and Celebration

By Caralyn Geyer

Three judges, two poems, one microphone. What’s at stake? Two movie tickets to the Jackson 10 and 50 dollars in cash. On February 24, Spring Arbor University’s (SAU’s) Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) held the semi-final and final performances of “The Spoken Word” in the White Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. to finish out the school’s celebration of Black History Month.

Five students gave performances of their best spoken poetry, but only one took home the grand prize. Sophomore English and Psychology major Kayla Kilgore was the winner, with her two poems entitled “Ode to My Chicks” and “Am I Not My Brother.” She was followed by runner-up Ryan Manuel and second runner-up Liz Pence.


Kayla Kilgore, the winner. Photo by Caralyn Geyer.

Kilgore said her poems were based on personal experiences and focused on topics of homosexuality and technology as a god.

“I know other people struggle with these things and I want to be a voice of peace on the other side of it so that I can help someone else,” she said. Through the performance aspect of the night, she said, “I hope it attracts a diverse audience. It’s not just for the people who like poetry. People should come for the experience and for a different way to hear a story.”

According to Lowell OIR representative Mandeep Kaur, “The Spoken Word” is not just a contest or about poetry, but it is a chance to share beliefs and help students have a voice.

“SAU students live in a bubble and this event is an opportunity for them to talk about issues more comfortably than on any other platform,” Kaur said.

Alongside Kaur, Eric Beda added, “This is a time to reflect on the history of people, reflect on the past, ponder the current time and hope for what the future may bring.”

In addition to the students, OIR welcomed special guest Jamaica West, a spoken word artist from Chicago. West gave several of her own performances throughout the night, while also playing the role of ‘host’ for the contestants. West said that the spoken word of poetry brings together poetry, creativity, imagination and creates an opportunity to hear the hearts of artists.

“It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of your peers and share your heart,” West said. “Today that is why we refer to them as artists.”

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