SpeakEasy is a collective group of Colorado College poets that gets together twice a week to write and edit pieces of poetry in preparation for a blockly performance for fellow students. The group was founded in 2016 and has grown from 14 to 18 members. This year, it also has been recognized as a student organization at CC. We expanded our access to CC students through a growing presence on social media and increasingly large numbers of students attending our shows.
Students join SpeakEasy by submitting an application that includes an audition. Members are chosen based upon their commitment to the group and their ability to translate words into emotion. Whereas many clubs are open or allow for continuous auditions, SpeakEasy holds annual auditions and has decided to stay a small group.
Having a small committed community creates a space in which trust and vulnerability can grow. Sharing poetry, quite simply, is not an easy thing to do. Some of it digs at the very roots of our anxiety or loves, fears or dreams, and sharing those emotions and thoughts takes a significant amount of trust when the poem is raw and unedited. Beyond that, we prepare with each other to share those words with an audience of strangers. SpeakEasy is about supporting poets' voices to ensure their story is told when they get up to the mic.
Support within the group is similar to the relationship with the audience. For our blockly performances, many students on campus attend. The attendees who are taking time to listen to another peer’s poems create a dynamic between the audience and poet, who performs with high quality to thank the audience for listening. Having a fixed group allows for more polished work to make it to the stage. Open mics are great places to hear and share poetry, but oftentimes, it is unedited and new work. SpeakEasy wants to reposition that perspective of poetry to show what happens after edits and work have been put into the poem. In other words, we want to show that poetry requires a critical lens and can be crafted beyond the first draft, just like any art form.
Colorado College has done wonders in providing performance spaces and equipment; however, we hope to grow beyond campus. Poetry, above all, is about the sharing of different experiences and emotions, and to stay on one college campus would restrict that sharing process. Colorado Springs is rich with many poetry communities, such as Hear Here and FreeX. Having our own microphone, amplifier and resources for short travels would allow SpeakEasy to reach art in local communities and beyond.
SpeakEasy isn’t only dedicated to the group as it stands today, but also for how it will be five or ten years down the road. We want to foster a student-run organization that relentlessly upholds poetry as a performative art and values the importance of letting their voices be heard, not only at CC, but wherever the stage takes them.