Poet Kane Smego turn ideas into spoken word

James Kennedy

Slam poet Kane Smego will be performing from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. in the Reid Coffeehouse on Friday, Feb. 6. Aspiring or experienced poets can also attend a workshop at 4 p.m. where Smego will help students transform their ideas into spoken word poetry.

Smego is renowned speaker, poet and the artistic director of Sacrificial Poets. In 2010 following the stories of young revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, Smego helped contribute to the multimedia “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution” project along with two other poets and a filmmaker. His work examines how stories can be used as a means of non-violent protest and self-transformation, and they often explore concepts of identity, diversity and leadership.

Smego individualizes his performances based on the context and theme of the event where he is performing. His wide range of experience draws on his work as a youth educator, nonprofit director and active ally for immigration rights, allowing him to share his life through speech and poetry.

In November of 2014, a group on the Whitman Events Board (WEB) first encountered Smego at the NACA (National Association for Campus Activities) conference in Portland, Ore., where poets, performers and speakers give presentations and are hired to hold events at various schools. Sophomore and WEB member Collin Faunt, who manages most performance-based events through WEB and is in charge of the Smego event, was impressed by Smego’s showing, as was the rest of the group.

“When we heard Kane, [our desire to bring him to Whitman] was pretty much unanimous. We thought he was very moving and he also performed his poems, and some of them were about issues that would be well-received here at Whitman. One of them had some feminist undertones, and we were just interested to see what else he had to offer,” said Faunt.

WEB hired and booked a date for Smego based on his performance alone but later found that he also held spoken word poetry workshops with students based on his experience in the art form. The workshop is focused on turning ideas you have about yourself and things important to you, and making the transition into the written and eventually the spoken word.

“When we talked to him, he told us he’d developed a curriculum about finding your voice and finding your personality through spoken word poetry,” said Faunt.

The workshop is open to all skill levels, so even those with little to no experience in slam poetry are welcome to attend. More experienced poets and writers have been promised more intensive writing prompts and techniques, so attendees need not worry that the curriculum will be too beginning-centric. Members of Whitman’s slam poetry group “Almighty Ink” have expressed interest in attending as well.

Almighty Ink co-leader Gus Coats expressed a willingness to see the artist’s own style come through in the workshop.

“I like that with slam poetry … everyone has their own style,” said Coats. “I’m hoping to see some of Kane Smego’s personal practice come through [in the workshop].”

Fellow co-leader Grace Little seconded this notion, adding that Smego’s ear for a musical tempo would be a helpful skill to learn about for her and other members in the club.

“Having listened to some of Kane Smego’s work, he employs internal rhyme and rhythm that blurs the line between poetry and rap,” said Little. “I think we could all use work with that.”

Like most WEB-sponsored events, Smego’s performance and workshop will be free admission for all Whitman students. As WEB’s funding is paid for through student tuition via ASWC, Faut believes charging money for the majority of their events would be unfair and excessive.

“We don’t like to charge students for events they’ve already paid for,” said Faunt.