It’s Tuesday at 7 p.m. and you’re under attack.
“In my dreams, metaphors are sparking at me. Dancing rhythmically inside my brain,” said second-year philosophy and communication double major, human rights minor Blake Deal. “So I grab them, and, taking aim at the audience, fire noise-filled rockets at ear holes looking like just mere words when in fact they are a message. A message heard a thousand times over in your head. You’ve got the illness. The addiction. And there is only one way to be rid of this poetic affliction so please, pick up a pen, and write.”
Deal is a member of SickSpits, UC Davis’ resident slam poetry group. He’s not just waxing poetic for no reason — he’s performing and opening the stage for the other slam poets.
“I grab this blank pen to paper, and I stab through the flesh,” said Jordan Schaub, second-year transfer sociology major. “Just to make sure I can feel these shards of parchment ensuring my existence as a purpose for something much greater.”
At this point, it’s okay to be shell-shocked. Awe, amazement and realization are all symptoms of getting hit by a Griot. No need to fear, vegans, no one’s throwing any cheese at your head (that’s gruyere) — a Griot is a poetic technique that SickSpits uses to open their performances.
The Griots are a way for the group to give people a sense of their individual style, while also presenting themselves as a collective. The words change every year, along with the mouths and minds that they come from. Since graduations have taken member after member of SickSpits outside of the UC, the group currently has only 5 students at its core, with others occasionally contributing.
“They’ve always made sure they’ve had enough members to ‘be alive,’” said Deal.
The living organisms in this SickSpits’ system right now all have different styles and different ways of keeping the group alive. Deal is SickSpits’ resident “funny guy” poet, while Schaub identifies as a socially-conscious lyricist.
Medina Stanackzai, fourth-year sociology major, speaks to both feminist and ethnic identities. The latter is also a theme for Ben Trinh, third-year sociology major, who’s also been known to lay heavy on “the love shit.” And all the other members, central or otherwise, bring their own individual flavor to the table.
But, like how Julia Child can never have too much butter, SickSpits can never have too many poets. The group is always looking for and welcoming of new members to their team.
“It’s never been a formal process,” said Schaub. “Like, just come talk to us, show us what you’ve been working on. We really just want to hear you perform.”
With or without new members, SickSpits has plans for 2013.
“It’s a group I’d like to see restored to its former glory,” said Deal.
He’s playing with suggestions like how he plays with his words, coming up with ideas like flashmob-esque surprise performances, anonymously submitted slams and collaborations with other on-campus poetry groups.
The poets are going to keep up their tradition of events like Tuesday night Open Mics and the end-of-the-year homage to hip-hop culture, “The Movement,” but Deal and the others also want to “bring back all the extra stuff we used to do before open mics.”
They speak and spit for whoever asks them to, from California high schools to social justice events. Trying to keep their roots in Davis, the group wants more student organizations to come forward and feature them in events. But more than just that, they want to get back the family feel.
Change is inevitable for the collaborative; along with the departure of famed spitters like Fong Tran and Ruby Ibarra, they’ve moved the location of their Open Mics from the Griffin Lounge of the MU to the Multipurpose Room of the SCC. The usage of Griffin Longue was paid for by SickSpits’ sponsors, but budget cuts and a desire to keep Griffin as a study lounge, SickSpits didn’t have a space any more.
With help from Tran, who now works for the Cross Cultural Center, the group got access to the SCC’s Multipurpose Room. With the new location came a new atmosphere; as the event is no longer centrally located on campus, SickSpits’ sounds don’t draw the same crowds.
“But the crowd is always great,” Deal said. “It’s all about the crowd, and all of ours have been the best ever. In all of my performances, I’ve never heard a ‘boo.’”
SickSpits’ next Open Mic will be this Tuesday from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Delta of Venus. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the event is love themed, and calls for any and all raps, poems, songs or stand-up comedy stories.
For information on more events, keep your eye on the SickSpits group on Facebook, and for questions, comments, compliments, community event requests or a chance to be a core member, email email@example.com.
TANYA AZARI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.