‘USpeak’ provides chance to share artistic expression​

Miami-based artist Jose A. Villar-Portela spoke to students and shared his poems Thursday at the second event of the “U Speak” series, a bi-monthly event held by Mangrove, the University of Miami’s undergraduate literary journal.

“My poetry is born out of the two drives to feel and to think the world anew,” Villar-Portela said. “Nowadays as poets, we can’t afford to be anything but cultural organizers and cultural participants.”

“USpeak” is an open mic series where the University of Miami community can gather to share poetry, flash fiction and short stories. Each event features a local artist who shares their work with attendees.

Villar-Portela, the event’s featured artist, is heavily involved with organizations that promote the exchange and awareness of poetry. He described USpeak as a medium to reach out to others by simultaneously reaching within.

“Poetry can no longer afford to live inside the academic box it’s lived inside of for years, it is now time to take it out of our drawers and allow it to come out of our rooms,” Villar-Portela said.

UM students also took the opportunity to recite their own original work ranging from humorous short stories to thought-provoking poetry.

“I believe in the power of the written word and there is so much that we as an audience gain from listening to the authors speak, and I think it should be continually emphasized in the society that we live in,” said Grace Slawski, a senior majoring in Latin American Studies who was the first speaker of the night.

Slawski read her poem “Walden East,” which was inspired by famous American author Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”

According to senior Natasha Mijares, the Poetry Editor of Mangrove, USpeak provides students with an atmosphere where their voices can be heard.

“It’s a unique way to observe the social and political aura happening during any given time,” she said. “It is important to preserve our place in history.”

Mangrove will continue to host the USpeak series throughout the semester with events Oct. 18 and Nov. 1.​

For more information, visit as.miami.edu/english/creativewriting/literary-and-performance-reading-series/uspeak/.