Sophomore Antonio Mercurius writes poetry, performs his work and holds workshops to help others master the art that allows him to express himself, relieve stress and be a part of an encouraging community. The health science major is the president of Speak What You Feel (SWYF), a club that brings together UM students who are interested in writing, performing or listening to poetry.
After the club went inactive last spring, Mercurius decided to take on the role of president and revamp the organization. He plans to make SWYF a place for students to feel comfortable sharing their experiences with others through poetry.
“We want to create a space for writers to come and feel welcome to express themselves and share their opinions. I want to make it a safe space for people of all different colors, races, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds,” Mercurius said.
Mercurius began writing poetry after hearing poet Pages Matam perform during a visit to his high school. What Mercurius thought began as a poem about a cigarette was actually a poem about abandonment, and realizing that significance inspired him.
“I was like ‘Wow, this is amazing,’” Mercurius said. “I think that’s really unique about how you can take little objects and turn them into something big and something meaningful.”
Matam later became Mercurius’s mentor and helped drive his passion for writing.
“He taught me everything,” Mercurius said. “He started a poetry club at my high school and I loved it. It was a great group of people who didn’t judge you, who didn’t care where you came from. It was all about just being together … to love what we do and love each other.”
With the goal of creating a similar community of acceptance, Mercurius hopes SWYF will inspire others by providing a poetic space for listening to one another and helping each other deal with the issues college students face.
“A lot of our problems are bottled up and poetry is a way to get things out, to really express them,” Mercurius said. “And people who come to poetry slams or open mic nights are people who want to, so they’re never a crowd that will judge you, but a crowd that will accept you and embrace you and even thank you for your story.”
Bringing up topics that affect students or have been a part of their past is an important way to form an engaged and supportive community, Mercurius explained.
“Poetry itself is activism, it’s healing, it’s expression. That’s something that I really want to push for,” Mercurius said. “For people to take the voice of someone else, to take the voice of another emotion, to write out their problems, their feelings and how they cope with things. I want it to be a stress reliever.”
In addition to its emotional benefits, poetry and spoken word also help students in a professional aspect, helping them become more comfortable with public speaking and enunciating words, Mercurius said. He hopes to share these benefits with students by holding workshops and poetry slams to help students who are unfamiliar with poetry learn about the creative process.
“I think the only thing that will hold you back is yourself,” Mercurius said. “You don’t have to know how to do it. Anything you can be taught. That’s why we’re in college, to learn. Anyone can do poetry as long as you’re [excited] about doing it and about learning about yourself and really exploring everything your mind has to offer.”
While Mercurius hopes to start planning larger events for the organization in the fall semester, an introductory meeting to SWYF will be held at 8 p.m. on Tuesday in Mahoney Residential College Room 101.
Feature image courtesy Pixabay user TheHilaryClark.