Life is tough in the 2020s. It feels like we are bombarded by social, political, and personal issues at a relentless pace. LMU’s first ever poetry club, Words of Mouth, was recently created by two LMU seniors to use spoken word as a way to cope with societal stress all while inspiring and empowering one another.
Last semester, communication studies major Makeda Yezalaleul ’23 was enrolled in a course called “Comix and the Graphic Novel,” where students explore how to express personal stories through the medium of comics. Students reflect on and identify an internal conflict, and then develop a short graphic story explaining how they were able to overcome it. While brainstorming topics for her project, Yezalaleul recalled an assignment from high school to write a poem and recite it in front of the class, an intimidating task due to her fear of public speaking.
At the time, the topic of race in America was very prevalent, particularly in the news, and Yezalaleul was passionate about equal rights and equal treatment for everyone. After seeing media coverage of incidents of police brutality, she felt compelled to act, and decided to use her poem as a platform to speak out against the racial injustices Black Americans face. It was through writing and reciting poetry that she found new confidence in the power of words and her voice.
For her final project in the “Comix” course, Yezalaleul detailed this transformative experience, creating a graphic story that resonated with professor Dean Scheibel, who urged Yezalaleul to explore poetry at LMU further. When Yezalaleul discovered there wasn’t a spoken word poetry club at LMU, the idea was born to start Words of Mouth, along with senior English major Benjie Salazar ‘23, a fellow poetry fan and friend.
“Our goal is to create a space to encourage openness, acceptance, and creativity of expression on campus,” said Yezalaleul. “We want to encourage storytelling in a truthful, authentic way where people can just speak to different parts of themselves and are accepted by others.”
Words of Mouth meets weekly on Thursdays, and is quickly developing a healthy membership of poetry and spoken word fans on campus. Members share poetry and work on writing exercises together, which are devised by Yezalaleul and Salazar. The club also plans to have poetry outings where they’ll travel to different areas in the greater Los Angeles area for inspiration, and organize a large-scale, on-campus spoken word event in the near future. A recent trip found members performing at Da Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles.
According to Yezalaleul, “Poetry changed my life. I was able to lift myself out of the issue that I was facing, and I want to be able to give that opportunity to other people as a creative outlet.”