A group of students have found comfort in expressing themselves through their writing.
Uncensored Society, a group of authors who share their work at a poetry slam at Kidd Coffee, celebrated its second anniversary on December 8. Made up of high school students, adults out of college and everywhere in between, the group takes pride in its inclusive atmosphere. As the name suggests, no individual has to censor language, content, or ideas. The society meets twice a month and at every event there is a theme. Whether that theme is relationships or elections, the mix of people bring unique interpretations to the stage.
Junior Matthew Slusser is a newer member of the group, having only been attending for a few months, but he said the welcoming environment hooked him and keeps him coming back.
“I look forward to it every month, because I like the people who go there, and the poetry is on a whole other level,” Slusser said. “I think it’s great, all of the emotion they put into it. You can tell it’s not just (what’s on the) surface, they go so much deeper than that.”
Junior Jazmin Tangi has been attending the monthly events for a year now and said the people are what make Uncensored Society.
“There isn’t really one kind of person who comes; it’s a mesh of everybody,” Tangi said. “There are high school kids and college kids, and they are from all different backgrounds.”
The different types of people who participate in the event help make the experience unpredictable. No matter the theme for the given date, Tangi said, you will have both people who bring comedy and people who dig deeper.
“Some pieces are light-hearted, but there are also a good amount of people who share deep, personal stories,” Tangi said. “People pour their lives out in front of you. I’ve heard work about sexual abuse, broken hearts, having your best friend die. It’s hard, but self-expression is a thousand times better than bottling everything up.”
Amanda Stoddard, who runs Uncensored Society with Drew Himes, said that self-expression is a necessity and a huge reason why she started the poetry slam.
“In high school, I went through a lot of stuff, and poetry was there for me a lot of the times,” Stoddard said. “A lot of people have band, or clubs, or sports, but I had poetry, and that was how I expressed myself. That was how I became comfortable with who I am.”
Stoddard and Himes had discussed the idea of starting a local poetry slam after having attended a similar event at Grocery Cafe in Clifton. Stoddard and her friends wanted to start something closer to shorten the drive, and Himes had contact information for Kidd Coffee. When it was started, word spread exclusively by word of mouth, and the group only had about a dozen members. Over the years, however, it has grown in both numbers and variety, something Stoddard said she has loved watching.
“It’s crazy to see how people have consistently been coming,” Stoddard said. “People change, and they get better, and it’s cool to see their progress. It’s also great when people are new, and you have no idea who they are; you’ve never heard their stuff before, and you don’t know who they’re going to turn into.”
Junior Kaileigh Strobel is an attendee of Uncensored Society and President of the High School’s Poetry Club. Strobel said that poetry in general doesn’t just allow you to pursue your identity, it encourages it.
“Poetry is such a unique form of writing,” Strobel said. “When writing a longer piece, you have so many factors to consider, but when you write poetry, you are able to get straight to the point. In my opinion, a story is meant to entertain the reader, but poetry is meant to portray the author.”
Stoddard said that Uncensored Society gives people a chance to slow down and connect with themselves, away from society’s standards.
“I think a lot of people that come to Uncensored (Society) face the same things I did,” Stoddard said. “For me, I never had a place to be myself besides my bedroom. You’re at school, or you’re at work, and life takes time away from developing who you are. Social media has made it easier, but society has stigmas and stereotypes. Everyone should have at least one place where they aren’t labeled.”
Though Uncensored Society started out as a way to share poetry, its members and its founders have turned it into a community of individuals. Stoddard said she continues to learn from attending the poetry slams, and that she takes something different away from every show.
“For a while, I would just cry afterwards,” Stoddard said. “I’ve had people come and tell me how this has impacted their lives, and I think that’s all I could ever ask for. There could be five people who come, and as long as one of them gets something out of it, it’s worth it.”