Snaps of fingers can be heard from the audience as the Lyrical Sanctuary’s programming Assistant Mikey Murry shares a spoken word piece on black women. Several audience members are taking in her words, nodding along and sharing their appreciation for the topic.
This type of reaction is frequent during the Lyrical Sanctuary event held monthly at the UWM Union. It’s the final show of the year, and the program is celebrating its 15th year as the longest running spoken word event at UWM. But instead of highlighting a popular performer, they’ll be highlighting UWM Students.
Lyrical Sanctuary’s host Maal Himself is celebrating his 5th year with the program. “It has always been a place where anyone can come in, whether it be a student or community members, they can share their energy with everyone,” says Himself.
“I take home a lot of energy, a lot of happiness and I learn a lot about people too.”
Over 10 volunteers preformed throughout the night with a varied mix of rap, music, and spoken word. The event welcomed all ages, ranging from a 8-year-old girl who spoke of current events and an older adult man who rapped about diversity.
An unusual addition to each performer was a live artist that accompanies each performer with visual art. The live artist drew a separate piece for each performer that typically resembled not only the performer but the topic as well.
The listeners cheered loudly in the Fireside Lounge at each performance, encouraging those just their to watch to share their writing pieces as well.
Before the event, the audience is encouraged to participate in a 30-minute writing workshop to try their hand at creative writing and possibly share it at the event.
The room was quiet as Khemphet Chanthavong took the stage. Chanthavong takes a deep breathe and starts her poem. She’s calm and collected as she speaks about an ex-love, identity and family traditions.
Her words are passionate and full of emotion as she describes finding herself again after a break up. She moves on to a heavy topic of self identity and sexual orientation and family acceptance. A battle that many listeners related to.
For Chanthavong, the Lyrical Sanctuary is the place where you can truly be heard. “I have been writing poetry since the 8th grade,” says Chanthavong. “The Lyrical Sanctuary gave me the courage to share my work in front of an audience.”
Chanthavong also performed an original song with her best friend Nouchee Thao. The two sang a soft acoustic melody about love.
Changthavong was among six UWM students who earned certificates for Artistic Excellence for their dedication to spoken word during the academic year.
Anubhav Das, another featured student artist, started the student showcase with a personal spoken word about his name and his love for video games.
“Video games aren’t my hobby, there not a lifestyle choice, they are my life,” Das spoke passionately. Das continued to shut down the stereotype about gamers and described how beneficial they’ve been in his life.
Both Changthavong and Das commented on the impact the Lyrical Sanctuary has had on them and other frequent performers. Stating that it’s allowed for a group of people to express themselves in a comfortable environment and that their words are actually being heard in a setting like this.