WORDS & IMAGES: BENJAMIN VELAISE '18
On Thursday, the 19th, Psi U had the privilege of hosting a very unique event. They called it “EYE CONTACT,” a spoken word and poetry event that focused on the reclaiming of power through performance. The works that were performed collectively revolved around the theme of power, and the relationship power maintains between space and possessions.
The event featured dancing, poetic dancing, spoken word, poetry, a live band, and more. The voices of each artist bounced off the walls of the space, illuminating the fraternity from a refreshing, artistic perspective. Performers seemingly had the option to perform from the stage, in the center of the room, or from anywhere they liked. As a result, performers could not be identified as the majority of them were seated in the audience. In turn, the poetry and dance actively collaborated with the audience.
Performers stood at opposite ends of the space, engaging the audience in mutual participation. Students were encouraged to respond to the words and dances with action rather than normative *clapping* and *snapping*. The result was original, as the audience was responding to the poets and dancers in a conversational manner. At the end of a performance almost anything could be heard. My personal reactions ranged from a loud gorilla grunt, to a high pitch whale sound. It was poetic engagement on an entirely new level.
The event was a huge success. Max Fredlich 17’, both a performing poet and a brother of Psi U, commented on what made the event so effective, “much of the success of the event was due to a collective openness of the space and diversity of the crowd and the poets,” Max said. “And the intention Cherkira Lashley, the organizer of the event, set: this is a place to reclaim power. It was beautiful to see how people interpreted that and to see those people be listened to.”
Max also prefaced his piece by acknowledging the fraternal space in which the event was held. In light of recent events surrounding the fraternities as spaces of inclusivity verses exclusivity, Max personally acknowledged the clash of poetry and brotherhood, “For a Wesleyan fraternity, a space that’s been dominated by only a select group of males since 1843, to give power to artists, letting them dominate the space, move around it, do whatever they do with it, this changes the dynamic. The identity of the frat is changing and who controls the social capital on campus is changing. I think all spaces, be they society frats or program houses, should share the wealth and give their spaces to the community, work on bringing the community together, and trying to promote emotional and physical safety everywhere on campus.”
Writer’s Bloc coordinator (which meets every Sunday at 4 in Usdan 110), Lily Myers, also commented on the power dynamics at play in the fraternity during her performance, “For me it was really powerful to perform my poem in that space. It felt like a very new type of event to bring into that space, and I was very proud to be a part of that. My poem was about the crazy illogical binds that women's bodies get placed into, and it felt very liberating to articulate that in a space that is usually controlled by males.”
My favorite part of the show was the conclusion. The final performances smoothly transitioned into a mellow dance party. The music was great. The dances were great. The words were great. I hope to see many more poetry nights at Psi U, as well as other unconventional spaces around campus.