Free Expression Poetry Club open mic features alumnus poet

March 4, 2013

Eleanor Skelton
eskelton@uccs.edu

Murmurs echoed in front of a microphone on the stage as poets addressed a variety of issues.

The Free Expression Poetry Club hosted a poetry open mic at Clyde’s on Feb. 23. The event featured Andrew Zigler, a UCCS alumus and one of the founding members, as well as five other poets and one musician.

FREEX has been hosting slams and open mics on and off campus for several years. The club’s purpose is “to promote cultural and social awareness through art and performance within the UCCS community.” Club members identify as “the Freaks.”

Kirsten Ortega, an assistant English professor, and Mary Jane Sullivan, a philosophy professor, have taught Poetry & Social Justice and were original sponsors of the club. Ortega remains a faculty club sponsor.

The audience accompanied the poets with the finger-snapping applause typical to slam culture. The crowd was smaller compared to other slams with about 20 people present.

Kevin Boyer, a senior political science major and the club president who hosted the event, generated an energetic atmosphere with a poem about his bare feet.

Taryn Miller, a junior English major, read a poem about temptation. “It’s a chocolate cupcake and it’s whispering my name.” Her second poem focused on drowning in the grunge of daily life and assignments.

Alex Hladkyj, a senior communication major, performed an instrumental guitar piece dedicated to victims of the Holodomor in the 1950s in the Ukraine. He followed with a song in Ukrainian and then a piece he described as “a simple love song, in English, this time.”

His music had a free, open, quality – like street music in a park, contained within the university basement pub.

Hladkyi has relatives in Ukraine living near the Carpathian Mountains. “I am reconnecting with my heritage through music and speaking Ukrainian,” he said.

“Originally, I did speak Ukrainian as my first language. However, the kids at school couldn’t understand me, so I quit [using] the language,” he added.

“This summer, I met a beautiful Ukrainian woman who inspired me to reconnect with my heritage and she helped me realize that I can become so much more. She touched me and made me realize that I could be such a better person.”

One of Hladkyi’s cousins is a well-known singer in the Ukraine, and her father is a composer. Hladkyi is also currently working on an album.

Sarah Hansen, a new poet to UCCS slams, read a poem followed by much enthusiasm and applause from the crowd.

Stan Hill, or “Stan the Man” to the Freaks, recited a poem he said was appropriate for “sitting on the edge of a blizzard.”

The poem was “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” which he accompanied by light, metonymic tapping on a Bodhrán, an Irish drum, matching the natural rhythm of the piece. Hill’s folksy persona was complemented by a 20s-style plaid driving hat.

Boyer performed another original poem about the maximum occupancy in Clyde’s and how walls cannot contain poetry and exceed their capacity.

Kevin Schmidt, another frequent attendee of FREEX club meetings, read two poems, one of which was about yoga pants.

Kimberly Southcott, a first semester transfer student majoring in nursing, performed a memorized poem called “What Kids Teach Us” about nannying a 4-year-old.

Andrew Zigler, the feature poet, known to the Freaks and other local poetry communities as “Ziggy” or “DrewDat,” recited some of his most popular poems.

He compared slam poetry and boxing, saying “You get to punch somebody in the face and not get in trouble for it…we fight for more than to be considered the best …We fight with our lungs, filled with possibility … They want to prove that the weapon is in our chest.”

Zigler has a bachelor’s of arts in English and works with at-risk youth at a residential treatment facility, teaching martial arts and poetry. One of his poems was about teaching and “the silence we push upon our students.”

“This is the voice we teach our students to use,” he said, connecting situations disadvantaged students may be in with the quiet, inside voices students are taught to use.

Between pieces, Zigler commented, “Poetry doesn’t need to be just yelling and screaming, but it’s fun when it is.”

His final poem about the power of a hug expressed, “Nothing will bring bliss like the love-hug-drug.”

Jermard Beasley, or “the Beas,” closed out the event.

The FREEX club is involved in the local Poetry 719 group, which sponsors the Hear Here slam off campus on the second and third Saturday night of every month from 7:30-9 p.m, with poetry workshops beginning at 6:30 p.m. Hear Here recently moved from the Movement Arts Community Studio to Marmalade at Smokebrush. Both venues are located downtown.