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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Poets grace UH stage

The lyrical group Mayhem Poets performed hip-hop inspired rhythms Thursday evening in the Houston Room of the University Center. The international spoken word artists hail from New York, and they brought their week-long tour across Texas to a close with a performance at UH. Their works incorporated humor with hard-hitting issues like religion, gender identity and health.

For psychology sophomore Seth Elder, the words resonated on several different levels.

“I think the poetry they did was relevant — not only to college life, but major world issues we’re facing at this time,” Elder said. “As a psych major, I’m actually really interested in gender equality and just gender in general. Their ‘Martin Luther Queen’ poem was probably the strongest for me. It just really hit home.”

The troupe was invited through the collaborative efforts of two student organizations: the Student Program Board and the Council of Ethnic Organizations. These two groups discovered the poets at last spring’s National Association of Campus Activities convention in Nashville, Tenn. They were so taken with the troupe’s showcase that they wanted to share their experience with fellow Cougars back home.

SPB comedy and speakers chair Tabia Jarrett was drawn to the performers’ unconventional, theatrical approach to poetry. She felt that their work would echo the sentiments of the UH community.

“We are the second most diverse university in the nation and we should be able to use that to our advantage. Though we don’t look the same, everybody is here for one cause,” Tuck said. “It’s a chance for students to relax their minds and listen to poetry and think about about their life.”

The rhymes seemed to be directed at a younger crowd as the poets alternated between comedic and dark. Communication sciences and disorders freshman Kevin Cock was surprised by the intricacies of their lyrical flows and how they defied the traditional monologue structure.

“At the speed that they were presenting their ideas, sometimes it just went past your brain, then you just sat there and thought about it for a second,” Cock said. “It gave you a lot to think about in terms of not only race, but religion, gender identification — female, male, et cetera.”

Cock had seen slam poetry on YouTube and was glad he finally made time to experience it in person.

“It’s highly intellectual,” Cock said. “I think it gets people to start thinking about the world around them. It makes you look past the tips of your fingers.”

Mayhem Poets has toured domestically and internationally, in countries such as Ireland, the Dominican Republic, England and Canada, for almost eight years. They’ve been showcased in a range of settings, from elementary schools to universities and regional theaters.

Upon parting ways, they asked Coogs for another go.

“We absolutely would come back to U of H, and we look forward to making it happen,” Granger said. “Hopefully, next time, there will be three times as many rows of chairs in this room, and we can rock it three times as hard.”

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