By Jacel Egan
Standing in the spotlight of the Cabaret, 24-year-old Carlos Robson, renowned poetry slam national champion, waved to the applauding intimate crowd in attendance on Feb. 20, humble and half-smiling at the ground. Hands in the pockets of his military jacket, he started his routine with a welcoming gesture.
“Just want to let y’all know that this is an open atmosphere,” Robson said. “If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’m being open with you by sharing my poetry, so feel free to share what you think.”
Small refreshments were set up to the side, as Robson delved into various poems about his personal experiences: many were about his family, war, love, and his hate for flying. Each poem brought his body to move in rhythm with his words, his body language expressing his poetry more explicitly.
“I found some of his stuff powerful because it was based on his life experiences,” sophomore Brittany Gallagher said. “There was a lot of emotion and that helped me get really into it, like that war poem about his uncle.”
Robson’s storytelling style brought a personal touch to his poetry, touching the audience as he spoke of his past love and his grandmother. A wave of silence washed over the crowd as he performed the poem ” Ten Dollars for Sunshine,” about a woman he paid to tell her somber tale of loss and heroin addiction.
The poet’s distinctive style appealed to those in the crowd not normally in attendance at such shows.
“It was really interesting, considering I’ve never really been to anything like this before,” said Mark Bemish, a visitor to Marist from Erie Community College in Buffalo. “It was definitely not what I would expect when I hear ‘poetry slam.'”
Singing was also incorporated into some of Robson’s poems, which added another level of depth to the poet’s material.
“Robson has a wonderful voice,” Gallagher said. “It was a nice change of pace in his work to include some singing from songs we all knew. They complemented his poetry well.”
The artist came to Marist representing the south, as a 2007 graduate from UNC Charlotte. His inspiration came during his time at school.
“I was a choreography minor in college and created a hip hop dance team,” Robson said. “For a class, we had an option of writing either a poem or a rap, and Idecided wrote a poem. Things sort of just went from there.”
His big break came in April of ’07 when he created a team, SlamCharlotte, and won the national championship for slam poetry; they came back again in ’08 to keep the title. Apart from competing, the artist has travelled across the continent to perform in Vancouver, Austin, Madison, etc.
“I’m really lucky that I get to do what I love and live off of it for a living,” Carlos Robson said. “I just teach and tour. Very rarely do I get up before noon for anything.”
Having the same agent as poetry slam individual world champion, Buddy Wakefield, Robson looks up to his fellow poet as a mentor and inspiration.
“His work is breathtaking, and he’s definitely someone who I look up to,” the poet comments. “Although the poem usually closest to my heart is the last one I write, if there was one poem that truly defines me as a person, it’s his [Wakefield’s] poem, ‘Convenience Stores.’ The first time I heard it, I was blown away.”
After the hour-long performance, Robson stayed back to talk to attendees and discuss his work with students.
“He seemed like such a down to earth kind of guy, very willing to hear feedback from us,” Bemish said. “I was just so impressed by his talent at such a young age.”