Spoken Word Workshop with David Romero
September 29th, 2015, By Kelly Shanahan
On April 16th, the Student Life Office sponsored a workshop event with spoken word artist David Romero. Romero travels around the country hosting workshops and performing his poetry, and I was able to speak with him before our workshop event to find out more about his creative process and his personal relationship to spoken word performance:
The Quill: When was the first time you performed in front of an audience?
Romero: The first time I did a slam poem in front of an audience was at Da Poetry Lounge in Hollywood, California. It’s known as the second largest spoken word venue in the country. It was actually the first time--first place--I ever attended a slam, it was there. I think the first poem I ever did was really abstract, no one got it, I did it really passionately, I was really hyped up and I thought it was great... I remember leaving in just, complete dejection. A very talented poet actually chased me outside, and she was like “you did really good”, and at first I didn't get what she was saying so I was like “yeah, yeah, everyone was great”, and she was like “no, you did really good!” and it made my day, and from there that’s when I started.
The Quill: When you write your poems, do you have any common themes you employ?
Romero: I definitely do have a variety of themes that I tackle, but mostly what I write about is Latino identity and my background as a Mexican-American, and my struggle between the two cultures having been raised by a family that wanted to integrate as much as possible, and wanted to submerge their roots. And so the fact that I don’t speak Spanish, and most people think I’m white when they first meet me...ya know, just asserting myself as Mexican. A lot of it comes out humorously, but I also have more hard lying poems tackling issues of immigration and foreign policy.
The Quill: Do you ever like to be an audience member of slam poetry events rather than a performer?
Romero: Sometimes no, and I’ll tell you why--because when I first got into it there was such a wide variety of styles, approaches, and topics and all different ages. And I feel like now it’s really becoming more popular and mainstream, and there have been certain topics and styles that have been prioritized. For example, what’s big right now are list poems and number poems. So poems that go like, “1: When I was blah blah blah, 2: do not do this, 3:...ya know?” and it was great the first few times I heard it, because it’s really clever and it helps the audience to understand the progression of the thought, but it’s just so formulaic. Every once in a while I do still love to go to open mics and be another attendee and listen to new artists.
The Quill: Do you ever improvise or are you always very rehearsed?
Romero: I used to improvise a lot more, and that really came out of doing freestyle rapping, which is what I was doing before, so improvising came out of that and a bit of a theater background. To tell you the truth though, the reason I would improvise mostly is because I had forgotten my poems! And that’s what they teach you: don’t freeze, just keep going. Now, usually before I perform a poem, I have it down completely. But what was cool about improvising was coming up with certain lines on the spot and deciding “oh wow, that’s really good” and I would end up incorporating it into my poem later.
The Quill: What are you most excited for tonight?
Romero: This is my first time in New York! It’s crazy being here for the first time, and this is a really beautiful venue. I’m really excited to be here.
During our workshop event, Romero performed a few of his poems for us, and then helped us to create our own poems. We created poems about our names (and how people often misconstrue or mispronounce them), poems about personal experience with gender inequality, and poems about doing any activity with any person of our choice (living or dead). These little workshops were based off of Romero’s own poems that he performed for us: “My Name is Romero”, “Batman Rides Shotgun with Barbie”, and “Basketball with Edgar Allan Poe”.
Romero taught us how to go through a full-circle thought process for a poem, which consists of beginning with a personal anecdote, connecting it to a larger societal issue, and then concluding by bringing it back to the personal anecdote. We got the chance to perform our written pieces for Romero and our peers, and they were all very personal and thought provoking. Some memorable pieces were written in memory of Amy Winehouse and inspired by sexist preschool experiences. It was great to see the inner slam poet hidden in all of us!