On Thursday April 11 at 8 p.m. in the Cole Memorial Chapel, the Feminist Association of Wheaton (FAW) and Latin Students Association of Wheaton (LSA) hosted the group Sister Outsider, consisting of the current two top slam poets in the world, Denise Frohman and Dominique Christina. Before the performance, the poets hosted a workshop at 6 p.m. in the Chapel Basement, which was followed by a reception provided by LSA. This workshop explored and questioned the corrupted, vague abstraction, and socially constructed identifiers that categorize individuals not only by image, but by character as well. This discussion led to the definition of an “outsider”, and how this can be harmful for the justification of severely harming others due to their lack of conformity. The workshop discussion had been led in a way that one was always sure not of where the conversation would led, but that it would hold potency and meaning by the end of the workshop. Questions like “But why is that true?” and “What is the meaning of ___?” left the participants stumbling yet coherently defining and illustrating their own meanings of identifications and social constructs through their own perspectives.
The workshop, for me, was crucial in fully appreciating the articulation, drive, and irrevocable passion that these two women displayed on stage with a proficiently critical rationale. Frohman and Christina are nothing short of professional academics, poets, and critical thinkers. They highlighted the ideology that articulation and expenditure of experience comes from immersion, both in life and a career path that one is passionate in. The ideology that certain identifiers are used as rationale for poor or lesser treatment of others seems like an obvious theory that, by the end of the workshop, I believed to have completely overlooked in my studies and observations.This, in many senses, is indicative of the system that we had been speaking of during the workshop, and that even the reasoning behind this poor treatment is skewed and abstractly defined in theory.
Sister Outsider then followed this workshop up with a performance open to the whole of the Wheaton community. Their performances consisted of both dual and singular poetry, covering the topics of sexuality, gender, and race under the scopes of personal experiences, iconic personas, and historical events. What I find difficult in the “excellence” and certain standards of many spoken word poets is shockingly-large gap between a passionate delivery and simply flat, dry language. I still believe that spoken word poetry is able to draw life from even the most basic, commonly-used words by the delivery, context, and passion exuded in the presentation, but in many cases, I am simply unable to grab hold of the importance of many spoken word poems that I have witnessed and viewed. I do not expect to be completely breathless after the end of each spoken word performance, but lack of the discipline of the language seems to establish that spoken word is a “crutch” to bad or undisciplined poetry.
Sister Outsider, on the other hand, are the absolute opposite of these poets that I have discovered in the past, as should be expected by their poetry status. The intricate discipline and intimacy of each poem left my fingers raw from snapping and my heels sore from stamping the floor so consistently by the end of the night. I believe that these two women have completely mastered the art of making poetry pleasant to read, yet having a need or expectancy of being spoken in a passionate delivery. Although I was more than slightly disappointed that Christina had not performed “Karma”, and I had hoped for some more dually-performed poems, I have no legitimate complaints or criticisms of the Sister Outsider event. Although I have ultimately been incredibly impressed by many of the events held on campus this year, this one takes the cake.