Poetry has always been a powerful aesthetic to reach people. There’s always been something beautiful about the way words can capture and make actual contact with the human soul. It serves as a direct line to the thoughts of a person and a open window into their hearts. A good poet can move a person with creative wordplay, but great poets can masterfully use words to convey a message of hope, inspiration, understanding, and power. They can take you on a journey of the sadness and the bitterness of a broken heart and deliver a emotional sonnet of love and laughter. The ability to create a visual and extract raw emotion from within is a true testament of the power of words.
Chicago has always had a pool of talented poets, from the late great John Dickson who captivated with writings such as in the poem “Rarely, If Ever, Is Flame Obsessed,” which speaks volumes about the human heart with a simple parable about a moth falling in love with fire, to the legendary Carl Sandburg who published Chicago Poems in 1916. These poets exhibit true artistic uniqueness in writing. Poetry is arguably the most powerful form of creative writing next only to music. The city has produced some of the most explosive talent in the world and continues to cultivate its most amazing spoken word artists.
With the recent spike in violent shootings on the southside of Chicago, it’s not hard to see the emotional reserve of the people is greatly stirred. From their emotional strife comes a refuge from the angst of killing and poverty and survival, the spoken word lives…
Markell “Kello-G” Mooney embraces this medium as one of Chicago’s premier spoken word artists. He recognized his gift and has been developing himself for some time as he told, “I’ve been a fan of poetry since the early 90′s, and initially started out at the Kings Mines.” He mentions how poetry and the words provide a connection to the person within your audience. Mooney realized he could introduce an element to the community that would influence creative writing and togetherness in one place, and the annual Poetry on the Patio event was born.
The event offers young writers, poets, spoken word artists and designers a chance to showcase their mind and pen in an open mic setting. It serves as a melting pot of different artists both new and seasoned alongside each other spitting their best “life”. Past attendees include hometown spoken word powerhouses RedStorm, Yah, Yah and Plum to premier artists like Avery R. Young, and Awthentik who all respect the meaning of the event.
RedStorm, a respected wordsmith in his own right, has done so much for creative writers in Chicago, for schools and for social political representation. With a good deal of his pieces centered around issues like abortion, crime, injustice, politics and education, his passion to uplift the community resonates with every syllable. Having frequented HBO’s Def Poetry Jam several times, his message is one of hope for the community through the responsibility and acknowledgement of the people. Redstorm came to the Poetry on the Patio in the spirit of community and joined the poets in the spirit of community in celebrating the art of spoken work. It encourages young spitters to go harder when given the opportunity to spit alongside of the city’s best.
One of the city’s most revered writing talents and a poetic mainstay is the remarkable Malik Yusef. His spoken word has tales of the crime and the conditions of the southside which can influence a survivalist state of mind. One of Malik’s pieces the telling Hollywood Jerome, went on to become a independent film and feature at several film festivals including the world renowned Cannes Film Festival. The poem represents how growing up in a deprived, poor, defenseless environment can skew a person’s perspective with negative re-enforcement. It captures the essence of how the influence of a person’s surroundings can glorify the negative connotations attached. His writings have garnered him several respected accolades including a Grammy, an Emmy and Peabody awards.
Having recently joined the G.O.O.D music roster, his rise is one starting right on the frontline on the southside of Chicago. I was able to speak with Mr. Yusef about poetry and how wounded the southside has become. With the recent rise in killings particularly in the roseland area, I asked was the city self destructing? He responded ” When you put people in a situation with limited resources, scrutinize them, and create an alarmed state of mind, those people will start to feel a certain way.” It conditions them to think a certain way.”
With so few outlets during a time of turmoil, spoken word serves as a direct link to the spiritual reserve as Yusef add, “I read from The Karron, The Bible, anything that is a part of a constructive solution.” Writing provides a much broader medium to work more expressively.
Poems can be viewed as writings that are emotional glimpses of the human condition. A condition that is critical for this city and the inhabitants of its conditions. According to Yusef the city is in the healing process mentioning, ” Healing is happening and starts with awareness. Leprosy is a problem, because the body can’t tell when it’s been damaged until it’s too late.” The city is indeed trying to purge the solemness of loss with positive action. What word life has done with poetry is use it a gateway towards strengthening that emotional connection through words. The event has been going strong for 8 years and continues to draw some of the city’s top premier artist such as Porcheoy Brice. Brice who has a ferocious pen of her own has had time to cultivate her skills writing poetry since the 5th grade.
She has become a fierce spitter and grows stronger with each line adding, “I feel good because i’m saying things that make people think or are relatable, at the same time i focus on continuing to grow to become better.” Each word is a piece to a larger picture and forms the essence of the closet imagery to a person’s soul. Which is why this art form must be conserved in the most treasured way as Malik add, “Its like a well that everyone drinks from, and you have to make sure the water remains pure, or eventually it will become polluted and no one will drink from it.” Mooney feels that the true essence of the spoken word is in the energy that spreads during a set adding, “When you have everyone together enjoying the community atmosphere while you’re spitting, there’s an energy present that’s insurmountable.”
The sons and daughters of Chicago are identically treasured and represent a crucial element in the re-development of the community. To introduce change in a war torn generation, is a challenge that won’t be met without constant diligence and positive nourishment as Mooney stresses, “You have to bring back the dinner table family setting, it’s important to keep that togetherness in the household.” Spoken word will re-introduce the power of words to the community with the poets wielding them as the story tellers of the city to further supplement that bond, as Yusef says, “Story telling has been around for centuries as travelers would embellish on the details of their journeys, and the longevity of the art form will continue to spread as spoken word continues to thrive and grow.”
PUSH IT FORWARD!