Spoken word performances aim to connect with college crowd

Performance poetry has been a regular event around the community for years, and yet it tends to remain largely underground when it comes to UAA. While students may have heard Saul Williams speak out last semester or are planning to see Anis Mojgani in February, the extent of spoken word artists on campus is limited. The issue is not a lack of voices, but the lack of ties between the poetry community and the university.

“The university community of poetry is not connected to the actual community,” said spoken word promoter and performer Faye Sikora. She was an introverted person who kept her passion for poetry to herself. After a short stint in California, she moved back to Alaska to be with her family. UAA’s AHAINA program gave her the initial opportunity to read her poetry on stage.

Sikora described the event as nerveracking as she read off her page. From that point, however, she would continue to involve herself in the poetry community.

She and a group of other women, including local radio personality Corinna Delgado, began a poetry lounge at Eastside Espresso in 1999. Sikora didn’t participate in any performances until 2000, when she heard about an open mic hosted by the Alaska Poetry League.

Now that Sikora performs off her page, she said she’s constantly writing and memorizing poetry in her head. She does, however, write her thoughts down for record.

“I write about life, about different experiences I’ve had, and about my perspective about things and about the world. I’m a student at life,” Sikora said.

Having exposed her perspectives through poetry, Sikora said that the audience won’t always agree with what she says, and she doesn’t expect them to.

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“I got booed one time at (Fort) Elmendorf because it meant they were listening,” Sikora said.

She performed a piece in response to Hurricane Katrina, in which she says, “Katrina was not the daughter of the father / she was the product of our environment / Bush’s bastard, man’s disasters.”

If there were no response from the audience, sharing her poem would not have been worth it, Sikora said. The booing was appropriate, because they were listening from that moment on.

“One man’s poetry is another man’s trash,” Sikora said. “One man’s poetry is another man’s prose. Always know there’s always going to be that one somebody that doesn’t like what you’re saying.”

As for Corinna Delgado, born and raised in Anchorage, she made state championships for performance poetry before developing a career in radio.

“As a performer, there is no purer love affair than when you are exposing yourself and your emotions on stage and people you don’t know (applaud) in agreement,” Delgado said.

Having experienced the connection between the performer and audience, Sikora began her own events-planning company called Platinum Productions. But her primary focus is spoken word and acquiring guest artists for main-stage shows at SpeakEasy, a spoken word venue hosted at Players House of Rock.

Sikora said her goal is to continue to bring up nationally known poets. Her system is based on a professional network with poets and referrals. Guest artists who have performed on the main stage include Christa Bell, Komplex and Taalam Acey. Abyss, a poet and musician from Atlanta, is next on Sikora’s lineup.

“I knew that Abyss would work for SpeakEasy,” Sikora said. “With the poets I had lined up, he brings in different elements with music and singing. Now I think, it’s time for anything, a change in pace.”

Delgado said that at this point, the talent pool of performance poets in Anchorage is shallow.

” (Sikora is) offering something different,” said Delgado. “She mentioned on her own stage she has to do it not only for herself but for her fellow writers to be inspired, and push herself to that next level.”

As a promoter, Sikora said it’s her responsibility to put an audience in front of a poet.

“I want people who came to see what it’s about to come back,” she said.

Sikora said she hopes to connect the university and community with performance poetry. Spoken word and SpeakEasy welcome college students because they can relate to the universal messages about love, politics and family.

“I’m looking to combine the university and outer community audience of poetry,” Sikora said. “The audience is a real element of a spoken word show. It’s an energy for a spoken word artist when you have a room full of people.”

Delgado said she loves to perform for college students because they are the most fertile-minded.

“You just have people in the prime of their development,” she said. “This is an exciting thing because that’s where the poet meets the teacher, and you have a great influence on your audience because the soil is so much more fertile.”

Delgado said that her career in radio stems from her local poetry performances. Being a spoken word artist has given her the opportunity to expand her involvement in the community and outside of Alaska. One of Delgado’s achievements this past year was performing at Folsom Prison.

She praised Sikora for offering new talent not only to members of the poetic community who contribute but the audience members who are patrons of the community as well.

“I applaud and totally commend Faye to provide a stage for that to happen,” said Delgado.

Platinum Productions presents guest poet and musician Abyss on Sunday, Feb. 3, at Players House of Rock at 8 p.m. This event is 21 and over only. For information or tickets, call 884-5979.