On Monday, April 6, the CU Creative Writing Association with support from the CU Cultural Event Board and the CU English Department collaborated to put on a reading and panel featuring three talented and inspirational poets. The show was titled Code Switching and Recoding Language, in which the three presenters spoke powerful words and shared  images that depicted the struggles that people who break the societal binaries face. These performers highlighted the various issues of oppression that stem from the lack of acceptance, expressed stereotypes and general lack of knowledge and education that many American’s represent today. The three performers, Cathy Linh Che, Jennifer Tamayo and Mykki Blanco, all used poetry to explain the oppression that each of them have experienced in relation to their own differences.

Cathy Linh Che’s poems were powerful and personal; her words painted a picture for the audience of what life was like for her parents – Vietnam war survivors and immigrants – and the affect that their bravery and courage has had on her life in America. She intertwined the Vietnamese language, and expressed the contrasts between the Vietnam culture and American culture. She also brought to life the horrors experiences by her parents and by the Vietnam people in general during the war. Their scars were reflected in her poetry.

Jennifer Tamayo took the stage next: She very much utilized the dome in Fiske Planetarium, using the ceiling to project a collage of pictures that flashed and flashed; and flashed faster and faster as she her words followed along with the pictures. Tamayo used voice-over in collaboration with her own live voice, creating a powerful affect through the layer of words and through her intense tone. Her performance expressed the oppressions that Latino women feel and also the oppressions that women feel when confronting sexuality in society. She especially expressed the struggles with inter-racial relationships, specifically whites and Latinos.

Mykki Blanco was last to take the stage, and although he has originally planned on rapping, he changed his performance minutes before appearing in front of the audience. Blanco spent much of his time talking directly to the audience; He told us about his past struggles, being his identification as a she-male, and about his choice to put rap on the back burner in order to test the water with poetry monogamously. His performance was filled with motion: He used his arms and moved his body, almost as if he were dancing. He embodied a character and by doing so allowed the audience to embark on a journey alongside him.

This experience was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Cultural oppression were emphasized in a way that was just the opposite of preachy: the performers themselves embodies the very oppressions that they have faced and experienced. Each performance was powerful in its own way, mostly because of the power that each person put into their readings. The visual effects and audience engagement combined for a complete sensory experience – one in which the audience was kindly forced to be apart of the conversation through complete awe.

Students can become involved in readings and even the sharing of their own works by contacting the Creative Writing Department. Also, the Program Council is hosting a poetry slam this month. Check out the site for details and signup opportunities. http://programcouncil.com/poetryslam/

The Departments features many other readings and speakers throughout the remained of the school year on a variety of different subjects. Check out the site for further details & dates. http://english.colorado.edu/about/news/