The art of poetry allows for connection, vulnerability, honesty and a sense of exploration for writers and creators alike.
Richeta Cubano ‘24 hosted the Office of Multicultural Life (OML) Poetunity Open Mic at the Red Door Cafe to showcase the work of students in a continuing series with OML. The Muhlenberg Weekly covered the first celebration of the Poetunity series with Hillel in 2020. The event, held on Friday, Nov. 5, incorporated a set list of artists along with ‘pop-ins’ from various people, and students even incorporated instruments in their poems and lyrics. The work was more than just a chance to share poems, as these short pieces of art and writing allowed for an openness and honesty to be shared and experienced for this one night at Muhlenberg College.
Tommy Kelly ‘24 declared, “Poetunity was absolutely magical. It was so intimate and so raw, getting to watch people bare their souls to me when I hardly even know some of their names. The amount of talent in that room was absolutely astounding.”
“Poetunity was absolutely magical. It was so intimate and so raw, getting to watch people bare their souls to me when I hardly even know some of their names.”– Tommy Kelly ’24
Cubano hosted the experience and also shared poems throughout the night, starting the event off with a poem entitled, “Why I Write.” The fitting poem set the tone for everyone involved and the importance of the power of writing. Cubano said, “Whenever I do start open mic, I always read my own [piece] and my own usually sets the tone and the atmosphere for how I want everything else to flow. In the beginning, I explain how writing in general can come with weight. It can come awake, can become a release. It can be very vague. It could be very specific, but the whole part of it is for you to just release, no matter what you’re sharing, whether that’s suicide, depression or abuse. The point is for you to take this space as an opportunity for others to hear your story, but also to make others know that you’re not the only person, or that they’re not the only person, going through it.”
Following Cubano’s introduction, various performers filled the Red Door Cafe with important reflections on identity and experiences in addition to more comical pieces. No matter what pieces were shared, the audience was responsive and supportive with snapping gestures and moments of audible responses. “We are not clapping, okay, I don’t know what that is, I don’t know where y’all learned that from… When it comes to poetry, when it comes to listening to spoken word, you snap,” stated Cubano.
The diligence and energy of Cubano made sure the event ran smoothly and that people felt safe to perform. Cubano also shared three additional pieces: “Women” and “A boy is a Gun” which led in for “911.”
Keanna Pena ‘25, a poet who shared a piece she wrote, mentioned the creative and supportive characteristics of Cubano. “I think that she [Cubano] was a wonderful hostess! She made sure everyone stuck to the rules of a poetry slam and ensured that the audience praised each performer after they spoke their piece. I also loved the poems that she read to the audience! She’s a really talented writer and is clearly passionate about writing.”
AJ Henley ‘24 mentioned, “Being vulnerable is so valuable to me because it makes us feel less alone as a community which is extremely important. It’s the first step in destigmatizing ‘heavy’ topics. The event was amazing. There was such a great turnout and it was a nice way for all of us to connect to each other in ways we might not have in daily life.”
Sidney Caruth ‘23 performed a poem as well during the event with “words from self-reflective parts,” or a more specific title with “letters to a younger me.”
“I really enjoyed the experience, it definitely was something that I have not really done before. I’ve never really spoken out loud my reflective thoughts in such a public setting. But it was really intimate and it was really good to see people in the audience that I knew, having comforting faces, definitely made it easy. I was a bit nervous… I’ve never done this before.” continued Caruth.
“It was honestly such a spiritual and powerful moment for me as a writer and I can’t thank Richeta enough for making something so impactful come to life.”– Mustafa Hall ’23
The evening was more than just moving poetry as it also involved a campus wide power outage during the event. The lights in the Red Door Cafe went out as Henley performed their pieces, including “Swipe Left,” “A Girl I Used to Know,” and an untitled poem. Henley declared, “The power going out after my last line was honestly insane. When everything went dark, I thought God was smiting me down or something! In the end, while the power going off was disruptive, I feel like it made my piece more powerful. It certainly made it end with a bang.”
The open mic format of the experience also allowed for pop-ins from various students in the audience and members from outside the Muhlenberg community. Kelly performed as a pop-in for the experience with a cover of “My Mind” by YEBBA, an emotional and heartfelt song. Kelly stated, “It was kind of terrifying. I hadn’t done any performances like that in years, but it was exhilarating to be up there performing. I missed that feeling a lot.”
Mustafa Hall ‘23 shared a piece entitled “My Blood is electricity,” which is published in this same issue. The poem reflected on his identity and spirit. Hall stated, “Overall, not only did I feel comfortable enough to share but also just so immensely supported in this space. It was honestly such a spiritual and powerful moment for me as a writer and I can’t thank Richeta enough for making something so impactful come to life.”
The work of the event allowed for artists to be celebrated, comforted and safe to share their stories and life experiences. Cubano hosted a wonderful experience and plans to host more with the upcoming spring semester. Pena finalized, “I have never done something like this before, and I’m really glad I got to. I’m really grateful for the opportunity Richeta gave me. It helped me gain some confidence and peace of mind.”