September 27, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 53°F


Senior’s poetry inspires group

“Yes, Baby, I know you love me, but that is something I will not do / I will not choose / To create the biggest snafu / Let me break it down for you like a reversed haiku,” senior Jaylene Clark shouts out onstage at last year’s Spit That! Open Mic Night.

Senior Jaylene Clark discusses her daily routine with friends Wednesday in IC Square. Clark said she loves to perform in front of friends or strangers. Lauren Decicca/The Ithacan

These lyrics from her published poem “Detrimental to my Success,” are an example of Clark’s talents as a writer and a performer. As an acting major, Clark said she is comfortable performing in front of people, which is part of the reason she started the spoken word group Spit That! She said each week the group tries to perfect a new technique in poetry reading.

“You can play with a simple journal entry by adding some speed and rhythm,” Clark said. “We’ll be playing around with movement, volume and speed today.”

Clark created the group when she was a freshman in 2006. A Harlem native, she was part of Urban Word, a nonprofit spoken word organization, when she was in high school. She said Spit That!’s meetings are a place where students can write in a free manner and a place for her to also practice her craft.

“Spit That! is a dynamic group of people coming together in the name of poetry to express their words, to craft their talents and to just explore the many possibilities that poetry has to offer,” Clark said.

She said anywhere from 15 to 30 members show up at weekly meetings. Together they have been preparing for their first performance of the fall semester from 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow in IC Square.

Spit That! member sophomore Matt Sporer said people can come to watch, read their own work or do a little bit of both.

“Afterwards, we’re having a cipher,” he said. “It’s a free-for-all expression using words, beat-boxing and voice. We’ll start it. Hopefully people will be willing to come forward and join us.”

Senior Tracey Casseus, Spit That! vice president, said Clark’s work is what makes the club grow in members.

“I think [the growth of the club] has been phenomenal,” she said. “I remember last week, someone sent me a text. He was walking through the quads and some kid was telling his friends [about a Spit That! meeting]. [He said,] ‘That was amazing last night, you should have been there.’”

Clark said the club plans to bring more guest poets to collaborate with Spit That! in upcoming events this year.

“I have some exciting prospects,” she said. “I might even get some international poets. There’s a group from Trinidad called Washikong. I would love for them to come here.”

With both the president and vice president of the club graduating this spring, Clark hopes Spit That! will continue and encourages students to get involved in the group.

“I would hate to see Spit That! go down as soon as I leave,” she said. “This is a positive environment. We welcome everyone, no matter if you’ve been writing since you’ve been able to write or if you’ve never written a poem in your life. We definitely will welcome you with open arms so feel free to come through anytime.”

Katharine Kittredge, professor of English and Spit That! adviser, said the club has been lucky to have a dynamic performer like Clark with a strong work ethic.

“She’s been instrumental in bringing in outside poets, planning events, turning it into a group that isn’t about her,” Kitteredge said. “She’s really made it feel like a place where you don’t have to be experienced. You don’t have to be a star. Everybody is welcome.”

Since she founded the group, Clark has emphasized holding the group’s weekly meetings like workshops. Sporer, who joined the group about a month ago, said he wanted to be surrounded by other people who could critique and present other examples to inspire his own writing.

“When we do our rehearsals, Jaylene will take notes, and she’ll critique,” he said. “She plays kind of a director. She’s really open-minded, very enthusiastic, charismatic and really knows spoken word very well.”

Clark’s dreams do not end at Spit That! Clark said she would like to publish her own book of poetry as well as release her own spoken word CD. After graduation, she said she plans to audition for professional theater in Philadelphia.

“That’s pretty high on my list right now because [Philadelphia is] cheap, and it’s a place where I could get involved in non-equity shows and build up my résumé before doing a big move to somewhere like New York,” Clark said.

Though her career plans point her toward acting, she said she still wants to keep poetry in her life.

“Poetry is a great way to express yourself through all types of emotions,” Clark said. “It’s a friend that’s always there, that you can always speak to. It won’t let you down because it’s an extension of who you are.”

Spit That! meets at 6 p.m. every Monday in the African Latino Society room in the West Tower.