Slam poetry Junior
Junior Clayton Brown perfects his spoken word craft in the Pugh Center.
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“My story isn’t the only one I’m trying to tell,” Clayton Brown ’13 said. The Brooklyn native also has in mind “people who can’t speak and those who don’t have a voice,” when writing his slam poetry.
Brown became interested in slam poetry and comedy when he was a sophomore in high school after experimenting with Garage Band on a friend’s Macintosh computer. After recording and altering his voice on the music-mixing program, he “just started writing.”
“It was a hobby, and now it has become more of a habit,” Brown said. In high school, he says he just “messed around” with the art form, but now Brown shares his talents with an audience—an opportunity that holds a certain amount of responsibility.
“[In poems], you can say ‘I woke up today and had a good time,’” Brown said, “but you are also on a podium. People are paying attention to you, and you should make good use of that attention.”
Brown is inspired by everything from politics and people to everyday situations and life in general. He also has his own playlist on YouTube—a selection of educational and inspirational videos that he refers to for material.
As President of the College’s Hip-Hop Alliance, a group dedicated to “spreading a positive message through hip-hop,” Brown organizes bi-weekly open mic events that offer an opportunity for members to express themselves through spoken word. “Rap is rhythm and poetry. Hip-hop is the voice for the voices,” Brown said.
Additionally, the Alliance “sheds light on what hip-hop actually is,” Brown said. This year, the group sponsored the screenings of two films—Ghettophysics and Busking the System. For the latter, the Alliance brought a New York City street performer to the showing to answer questions from the audience. The group’s events aim to represent hip-hop “as its own art form and not as a fad or as something that’s just used to make money,” Brown said.
The valuable skills that the self-proclaimed orator has learned from hip-hop and poetry have already been put into practice at his summer job, where he says he was called upon “whenever they needed someone to speak in public or give a presentation.”
In the future, Brown is open to the possibility of one day opening his own poetry club or café. “Not a chain; I really like the local, grassroots level,” he said.
He is also interested in continuing to share his poetry. “I could be a professor or be whatever occupation I’m going to be and do [poetry] on the side,” Brown said. “I’ve had English teachers who would teach during the day and after, they would go to a club and tell jokes and have another life.”
But mainly, “I just see myself living,” Brown said. “Somewhere urban; somewhere I’m needed.”