Note: This is one of a series of events that happened during Culture Week at LAHC
by Nadia Villanueva
Culture week was expressed in a different kind of way, when poet and teacher Mike Sonksen, a.k.a. Mike the Poet, visited LAHC. On May 12, the quad area of the cafeteria was set up with a microphone and some chairs for the audience, and with the encouragement of host Sonksen telling students to go up and read poetry, a small version of an open mic night began.
Sonksen began the event with some of his own poetry. “This is the 562” was a poem that spoke of appreciation for Long Beach, the city he grew up in, where he praised the many characteristics and people that made Long Beach the city it is.
“We Need Water,” a poem about the drought California has been experiencing came next. He closed his performance with “A Poem for College Freshman,” which spoke to all the college students in the audience who have experienced the fear, excitement and confusion associated with being a freshman.
Next came LAHC professor Christian Lozada, who shared poems of his own family and culture, in particular, his father, stating that “nothing says love like a cold fried baloney sandwich with warm mayonnaise.”
One by one, students took to the stage to share poetry that expressed their own life and the characteristics that make them who they are. Some chose a more comedic route, such as the poem in which the good old microwave was praised for always being there for us in desperate times, expressed as “every college student’s savior.”
While funny was an option, students for the most part, stuck to expressing themselves and their lives – the very aspects that make them who they are.
Student Marlene Lopez performed a poem about her daily life as a hairdresser, while another student Kat Ashe spoke of a girl she knew who just wants to be loved. Another student, Liberty Cohen, expressed her love for her little brother who was not so little anymore.
Health professor Leslie Trujillo even chose to express her own form of poetry, poetry of the body – or stretching, going as far as adding her own little rhymed lines like “squeeze it tight with all your might.”
Many students there were inspired to read aloud their own poetry, some even deciding, in the spur of the moment, to present. One student in particular, Alicia Dominguez, was so inspired that she wrote a poem on the spot to read aloud.
Sonksen whose biggest mission is to get people excited about writing, especially writing about their cities and where they come from was happy with the results that the open mic brought. As an 11 and 12 grade English, poetry, and journalism teacher, Sonksen helps many students discover the power of writing.
“It is one of the most practical things in this world that you can do. Everyone needs to know how to write,” he said. “Poetry is fun, its therapeutic and it helps you find yourself.”
Hosting and attending different open mic nights is one way that Sonksen choses to reach out to the younger generation of future poets, hoping to teach them a way to express themselves and their city.
“Young people are the future of the city, and they need to know where they’re from and invest in it” he said.
While being proud of our city is very important to Sonksen he didn’t hesitate to mention the power of the community college system, and how lucky LAHC students are to be at community colleges right now “
“Take advantage of the junior college system because it’s one of the best kept secrets in America,” he said, explaining that it’s a great way to transfer to a good school. “You’re in the right place at the right time with good people.”