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ISSUE 120 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/2/2007

Saul Williams in the Pause: Spoken-word artist delivers sharp, poignant message

By Tim Rehborg
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 2, 2007

“When God lifts up her skirt, shows you what’s underneath, you don’t go telling everyone about it,” said Saul Williams, preaching his message to students the night of Feb. 21 in the Pause. “I don’t like to call myself a poet,” he said. Nevertheless, this artist, performer, poet and activist brought levity and delight to a packed house.

The show began with an opening performance from spoken-word artist Desdemona, who communicated lush strings of emotional images, unbroken except for a pause to breathe. Sharon Sanders ’07 also performed, reading a piece on her unnamed greatest love. She held the audience in suspense, only revealing at the end that this love was poetry. Cory Stuart from Carleton and Poki Wright, a rapper from Minneapolis, rounded out the opening acts.

Saul Williams entered the stage with a bang, sliding out on his knees and startling co-host Eyita Gaga ‘07. With silver glinting off his hands and wrists, he jumped off stage, asking for house lights “so I can see everyone’s faces.”

To start his performance, Williams asked for questions. Audience input propelled his direction, choice of poems and discussion on various issues. “What do you think of the Bahá’í faith?” launched a tirade on the benefits and negatives of religion, as well as Williams’ hilarious realization that St. Olaf is one of “those schools.”

Questions of religion dominated a large portion of the performance, raising issues such as Williams’ Buddhist daughter, preacher/teacher parents and religious plurality. “When you walk around the corner and see some guy levitating, you don’t go tell people about it. You keep it to yourself,” Williams said And his views on the Christian Church? “I haven’t contradicted any of the red words in the Bible.”

Williams’ poetry is full of great pithy statements, outrageous declarations and vivid images. Short, tasty sentences like “Racial identity is

mindf—k” provoked and delighted the audience. Williams is definitely not afraid to poke fun at anyone. From Oprah to 50 Cent to President George Bush, celebrities and current events helped focus the subject of Williams’ poetry and speaking.

The performance was captivatingly intimate. Williams’ jump off the stage shortened the physical and emotional distance between performer and audience. He spoke with the audience as if talking over coffee, then launched into dynamic lengths of poetry. “I felt he was talking directly to me the entire time,” Anya Galli ’08 said.

After the performance, I stood in the huge line in the back of the Pause of people waiting to buy books and meet the man in person. I luckily snagged one of the last copies of Williams’ newest book, “The Dead Emcee Scrolls,” and had it signed. In person, Williams has a charisma and power that is undeniable. His presence is immense, and his issues are poignant.

And his motivation? “Being alive and making change have been enough inspiration for me,” he said.

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