By Colby Smith
“I don’t really tour much anymore,” Sage Francis said Thursday, for a TerPoets event. “But, here I am.”
“Thank you!” a woman in the back of the theater shouted. The rest of the crowd roared in agreement.
Francis, a celebrated spoken-word poet and hip-hop artist for Strange Famous Records, performed nearly twenty of his songs in Stamp Student Union’s Hoff Theatre.
Emcee John Tucker, a University of Maryland alum who formed TerPoets in 2007, encouraged the audience to give the poets feedback by snapping, clapping or shouting.
“This isn’t a TV screen,” he said.
Four university students opened the event and shared one or two slam poems, passionately performing them from memory.
Cormac White, one of the openers, read a poem about a young girl he saw on a Guatemalan street. White is a veteran of the TerPoets scene.
“Maryland has a great arts community,” White said. “There was nothing like this at my old school [Baltimore City College]. There, the poetry club was like three people.”
Sage Francis took the stage around 8:30 p.m. and dazzled the audience with his witty wordplay and powerful subject matter
His set had whimsical moments — including a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” — and more emotional ones.
Near the end of his set, Francis performed the song “Ubuntu (Water Into Wine),” based on his experiences earlier this year working with orphans in South Africa who were undergoing an experimental HIV treatment.
“Ubuntu” was one of the most powerful moments of the night. Francis had a number of political poems that raised the audience’s voices or snaps in understanding, agreement or even disgust.
“Amen!” one audience member shouted after Francis said, “I’d rather you occupy Wall Street than occupy Walmart.”
Francis closed his set with a question and answer session with the audience.
One student asked about Francis’ writing process, and Francis described himself as obsessive about words.
“There are always bits and pieces of ideas in my head,” Francis said. “Sometimes it just goes right.”
More information about Francis and his slam poetry/song CDs can be found at his website.
View more photos from Sage Francis at TerPoets here.