For Cape High students who say poetry is boring, a Sept. 19 performance by The Mayhem Poets may have been a game-changer.
“Poetry out loud brings everyone together,” said poet Mikumari Caiyhe. “Black, white, brown, green, everyone.”
To the tune of the “Rocky” theme song “Gonna Fly Now,” the poets performed a one-word poem as if sung by cats, meowing the entire song.
“We love doing it, because you can be fun and silly with poetry and performance,” said poet Scottt Raven.
Raven co-founded The Mayhem Poets after graduating from Rutgers University. College friend Caiyhe joined the group not long after. Both poets currently live in New York City. “It’s great to work with someone you’re friends with,” Raven told students during the poets’ high-spirited and touching performance at Cape High that kicked off The Freeman Stage’s annual Arts in Education program.
Caiyhe and Raven are theatrically trained, hip-hop inspired performance poets. As educators and arts advocates, they have performed in schools, universities and theaters across America and in 12 other countries.
“We are blessed to travel and perform our poetry,” Caiyhe said. “You don’t have to be deep to be a poet. Poets aren’t just old guys with white curly hair.” Throughout the performance, students laughed, cheered and listened intently as artists performed poems on race, fears, loss and stereotypes.
Caiyhe told students about the time he performed in New York City in front of thousands. “I felt great,” he said. “I was getting off the train in New Jersey where I lived, and there were homeless people in the train station. I did a double-take. One of them was my mother.” Caiyhe said his mother suffered from mental health and substance abuse issues for years.
“We lost her,” he said. “We didn’t know where she was for over six years. Seeing her made me think about how many people I’ve judged wrongly. I wondered how many people stepped over her. It changed the way I judged people.” Caiyhe performed “Open letter to my mother, Sunshine” in honor of his mother. The Mayhem Poets closed their performance with “Martin Luther Queen,” an ode to all women. “No man is better than the woman he came from,” Caiyhe said.
Denise Allen, community access, education and volunteer coordinator for The Freeman Stage, said proceeds from summer concerts fund the Arts in Education program for Sussex County schools.
“The Cape kids were amazing,” Allen said.
Allen said other artists will return to Cape to hold poetry discussions, and voice and movement workshops. “The programs align with Delaware standards for reading, writing, listening and speaking,” she said. “Students will learn to use their voice and body as communication tools.”
After the performance, dozens of students remained behind to speak to and capture selfies with the poets. Senior Collin Thompson said, “This was the first time I ever really felt poetry.”