Larry Wu faced a small crowd of 20 people in the dim backroom of The Belmar Pub and Grill before spitting out, “Man, I ain’t got no time for no politics,” as part of his performance for “Poetry Matters” on Friday night.
The event, the result of a collaboration between Democracy Matters, Binghamton University’s Slam Poetry Club and the Southern Tier chapter of Citizen Action of New York, aimed to use poetry as a way to discuss fair elections and social justice.
According to Winter Clark, president of Democracy Matters and a senior double-majoring in philosophy and the individualized major program, one of the event’s goals was to give marginalized individuals a chance to speak.
“People are free to share poems and whatever else they feel comfortable doing, but there is a broad theme of social justice so we’re hoping to uplift the voices of some marginalized folks tonight and to have this as a space where that could happen,” Clark said.
Wu, future public relations chair for Democracy Matters and a junior double-majoring in history and philosophy, politics and law, said he chose to perform at the event because he likes poetry and wants to raise awareness for issues that are affecting his community.
“Art is beautiful, so when you get the chance to come out and speak out about stuff that you see in your communities, why not take a chance?,” Wu said. “Art is something that you can’t fake. Genuine art will always speak for itself, so that’s why I feel like it’s important.”
With an abundance of free tacos and easy access to the bar, the event also allowed students and locals to informally meet and relax as they listened to poetry performances. For Clark, it was important that the event involved the whole community and not just students.
“We’re interested in bringing the community together — we have student works here and obviously The Belmar is a local business and we’re super excited to be here giving them business,” Clark said. “We really do see this as a community effort and kind of just a fun thing to do on a spring Friday night.”
Jim Mack, a Binghamton area resident who performed his poems for the event, said he chose to attend “Poetry Matters” to connect with other political poets.
“Some of my poetry is political so I thought this would be a good occasion to showcase some of that poetry here and meet some other politically oriented poets,” Mack said. “Poetry is critical to politics, [and] the arts generally are really good at conveying those [political] messages.”
Some of the poems performed at the event included “Speck on the Flag,” “War Leaves Acne Scars,” “On the State of the Revolution” and “Masculinity.”
Attendees were also entered to win prizes, which were donated by local businesses and included a style guide, a wicker basket, socks and patches.
According to Wu, events like “Poetry Matters” allow people to progressively start thinking about current issues.
“We’re not obviously going to solve any big problems, but these things are a process and if people have the right mindset and people are constantly exposed to it, gradually people will be more conscious and awake [toward] issues,” Wu said.