Spoken Word artist performs at Berry College

Kendall Aronson, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor

A spoken word event featuring Porsha Olayiwola and Berry student Olivia Vasquez was held in the Krannert Ballroom on Saturday. 

Porsha Olayiwola is a poetry performance artist. She is originally from Chicago but she now spends her time traveling to schools and reading her poetry. Olayiwola has been performing spoken word for the past 11 years. She first heard spoken word poetry at a competition in Chicago her junior year of high school, and she said she has been writing and performing ever since. 

“I’m really into youth poetry,” Olayiwola said. “That’s where my two passions meet: poetry and young people.” 

She is working on a book that is coming out next year which focuses on Afrocentrism, fantasy, magical realism and science fiction. She has been incorporating Disney fairytales into poems for the book by imagining that the characters were her. 

“I think every time I do a reading I have a different goal,” Olayiwola said. “I think tonight I wanted folks to know me, and to hopefully see themselves in my work in some shape, form or fashion.” 

During the performance, Olayiwola gave out different prompts to the writers in the audience with the goal to continue to inspire them and broaden their creative horizons. She said that she wants to hear other people’s voices. 

“I’m really into other people’s writing,” Olayiwola said. “I hope that people can see themselves in me. Whether that be the actual, literal meaning of the poem or just being able to get up there and do the same thing of realizing that your voice is actually so important, and we need to hear it.” 

Senior Olivia Vasquez opened the event. She has read many of her poems at different Berry talent show events since she was a freshman. 

“The first time I ever did it was actually at New Faces when I was a freshman,” Vasquez said. “I had just recently discovered Youtube videos of spoken word, and I didn’t really know it was a thing until my senior year of high school. I wanted to try it. I just felt like I had a lot to say.” 

It normally takes Vasquez two hours to write a poem, and then another two hours to practice for the performance. 

“My relationship with myself as a writer has changed,” Vasquez said. “I used to really think it was a part of my identity, and after New Faces everyone was like ‘Oh that’s poetry girl, she writes’ and now it’s not even my biggest pastime. It comes whenever I think of a phrase, and I’m like ‘I love that I need to work with that.’” 

Vasquez said that writing can act as a gateway to other ways of self expression in people’s lives, and what people want to say is less important than the act of getting something down on paper. 

“I want people to see that there’s a lot of power personally in being able to express yourself,” Vasquez said. “I haven’t always thought I was a very creative person, but being able to write has allowed me to explore lots of other ways to express my creativity through fashion and visual art.” 

Vasquez said she never really knows who she is impacting during her shows. Last year she read a poem about her grandmother’s death, and multiple people told her about how much they appreciated her talking about an event like that. 

“Expression and connection you don’t expect is really nice,” Vasquez said. 

Vasquez thought Olayiwola’s performance was amazing, and said that Berry always picks original poets who are passionate about their art. 

“Porsha is so different from me in that her poems are very sound-based and conceptual, and mine are a little more descriptive and focus on emotion,” Vasquez said. “It was really inspiring to really see her take something that we both do that is the same, and do it so differently.” 

Sophomore Anjali Reddy, a psychology major, attended the event. She herself is a writer, and she enjoyed seeing the poetry performance. 

“She was really funny,” Reddy said. “I liked how she really engaged with the audience.” 

Reddy had never seen a spoken word performance before, but she thought that Berry should host more of them in the future. 

“I love that people are interested in it,” Vasquez said. “It’s an art form that is so underrated, and I wish that more people could feel connected to it.”

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