Spoken word poet addresses domestic violence

By Allie Jeter
October 5, 2011

Nationally acclaimed poet Amber Rose Johnson with friend and fellow poet Selena Johnson

Two extraordinary poets graced the college campus with their works in Slam Poetry on Oct. 4 sponsored by the English department.

Amber Rose Johnson, 18, made her creative presence known in the Holy Spirit Library and began to take her audience on a journey through her most thought-provoking works. Her works were issues that the students couldn’t help but relate to, such as stories of struggle, domestic violence, love and the school.

This was Johnson’s first Cabrini debut and she loved every minute of it. The National Youth Slam Poetry winner of 2011 and Out Loud Winner of 2010 is also an Advisor of the National Advisory Committee on the Violence Against Women and a freshman at Tuft’s University in Medford, Mass. Johnson discovered poetry from a close family member dear to her heart.

“I’ve gotten into Spoken Word from my sister,” Johnson said.  “She first started it and then introduced me to the culture and appreciated the raw emotion you can find in Slam Poetry. So then I started writing and then soon I started sharing.”

Slam Poetry is performed aloud where poets express their feelings on certain issues. It is also a competition in which the poets perform alone or in teams before an audience, whom serve as the judges. The poetry is judged on enthusiasm, expression and persuasion. The audience is instructed to give a numerical score (scale of one to10) by the end of the night based on the poet’s content and performance.

Johnson seems to connect with her audience well considering she’s won two national poetry awards at the age of 18.

Don’t think all the fame has gone to her head though. The potential educational reform activist, Johnson sees herself always having poetry in her life.

“Spoken Word is always going to be a part of my life and definitely in the work I want to get into,” Johnson said. “There’s always a place where you can use Spoken Word.”

“The beautiful thing about poetry is that you can write about whatever you want so we can be teaching about education and find a way to incorporate poetry in our profession.”

Along with Johnson, 22-year-old Slam Poet newcomer and best friend, Selena Maria Johnson, also shared her works during the evening.

“I started writing poetry as a hobby,” Selena Johnson said. “It was something I was interested at the time. I went out to open mics and I kept writing and writing. I also built the confidence to share and then I just fell into it.”

Selena Johnson expressed her inspiration to be her friend Amber.

“Anything you see can be a form of inspiration,” Amber said. “A song you hear, on a certain day and at a certain time can be an inspiration. It can also be a conversation you had and definitely hearing other poets and seeing their struggles and how they processed the poem could be an inspiration.”

The two poets have great support systems such as family and friends. Their family and friends always want them to share their poems and always attend their performances.

Amy Persichetti, English professor, was excited about inviting Amber Johnson who brought something different to the college.

“I met Amber at the National Summit for Gender-Based Violence in Washington, D.C.,” Persichetti said. “She did the recitation of the Andrea Gibson’s ‘Say Yes’ and she’s so magnificent that I thought, ‘Oh we need to bring her here.’”

Persichetti would like to begin a Slam Poetry club on the campus.

“I would really like a student poetry group and I would put this challenge up anywhere on the campus,” Persichetti said. “I want to create a culture where poetry is a really important thing.”

The night concluded with a question and answer period from the audience and when the night was over, everyone grew a new liking for poetry. When asked what advice would they give to young people who want to get into poetry and how to be sucessful in it, the main answer was to always, always write.

“Don’t be discouraged by someone else’s writing,” Amber Johnson said. “The beautiful thing about poetry is that no matter how eloquent you say something, there’s always someone in the audience that can always relate to what you’re talking about. If you’re talking about something you care about, if you’re talking about love, if you’re talking about anger, you know what all those emotions are. If you’re completely honest in your poetry, you can have someone relate to that.”

“Keep writing,” Selena Johnson said. “The lesson I’ve learned a little too late is that I wish that I’d known before. Poetry is always a work in progress. Art is always a work in progress. No poem is finished, only forgotten.”

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Allie Jeter

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