So when my students ask me
“Professor, can I use the word ‘ain’t’ in my essay?”
I remind them that they do not need permission to write the way they speak
—Stephen Cobb, “European Nooses in the Classroom”
After a night of thought-provoking and snap-worthy performances, the five poets – Orville the Poet, Just Mike the Poet, Jovan McKoy, Destiny Karizma, and Stephen Cobb – sat on the stage for a laidback Q&A.
Stephen Cobb, an adjunct Writing Arts professor at Rowan University, took the mic to explain what this night meant to him:
“The idea for this started when I was in my Master’s class, and I was having trouble feeling like I was heard on the page. I was writing words that were falling on deaf ears. … So then, when it came time to do this, we did ‘Too Loud for Looseleaf,’ and we named it that because in our community, particularly Black people, we’re not going to be heard on the page.”
Make no mistake, Cobb fulfilled his mission. Too Loud for Looseleaf – co-sponsored by the Writing Arts Department, SJICR, the English department, and Diversity in Action Committee – was a night that shone a spotlight on Black voices, Black poetry, and the art of spoken word at Rowan University.
Cobb himself acted as an emcee and opened up the show. Sparing any introduction, he fired the audience right up with a poem lambasting the unfair idea of “the American Dream.” His two following poems critiqued the education system, its pricing, and its erasure of AAVE.
Destiny Karizma, nick-named the Lyrical Pro Black Unicorn, comes from Staten Island, but credits Camden as making her become a poet. Walking onto the stage, she appeared very shy – but nonetheless, she used spoken word poetry as a way to be open and vulnerable to an audience of strangers. “Love is my theme for these pieces,” she spoke softly into the mic, “but, like… I fell in love, I’m pretty sure y’all fall in love, so we shouldn’t have any problems,” she giggled. The three poems she performed were vulnerable, confessional, and tender. Her poetry collection, A Clouded Mind, published only a week earlier, was sold at the event.
The last performer of the night was headliner Orville the Poet, traveling all the way from Washington, D.C. – during a horrible rainstorm, I might add. For him, poetry “definitely started as therapy.” Now, he shares poems to motivate and inspire others. “If you get anything from my time with you today,” he told the audience, “I hope you find out what your passion is – and many of you know what it is. … I hope you don’t get comfortable. I hope you get super miserable until you start doing that thing. … Share your heart through your art!”
Spoken word is a powerful art form – and certainly, baring your soul on the stage requires a good deal of bravery.
Orville’s advice to those who dream about taking that step: “The more you you put into [your poetry], the more people will gravitate towards you being your authentic self.”
“Once you get on the stage, no one can tell you the future that it will hold,” said Cobb, “but I guarantee you all the best things are from you taking that leap.”
Cobb knows that better than anyone.
“Honestly,” he said after a pause, “this feeling is surreal. … We jumped through a lot of obstacles, relationships have changed – I went from Drew Kopp being my professor, to now I’m working with him on projects. … It’s just the beauty and the journey, and I appreciate you guys for being a part of it – I appreciate my poets for being here – our first Too Loud for Looseleaf has been a success, y’all!”
And while he worked so hard to make a spoken word night happen at Rowan, his mission isn’t over yet, already planning a spoken word workshop for students.
Too Loud for Looseleaf was recorded by Rowan Television Network, and you can watch the event here: