Mark Fabionar started spoken word poetry forum Another Type of Groove through the Cal Poly Multicultural Center in 2000. Courtesy Photo.

Another Type of Groove (ATOG) is back and kicks off its 10th year Wednesday in Chumash Auditorium.

Hosted by the MultiCultural Center, the spoken word poetry forum features guest poets and welcomes open mic performers with the intent to create a space in which ideas are exchanged.

The once-a-month event begins with an open-mic session, in which students, faculty and community members sign up prior to the start of the program. Then, the featured poet performs half of their set. After a brief intermission, the cycle repeats itself.

ATOG has garnered quite a following of students, averaging 100 attendees per show. Student coordinator for ATOG and civil engineering junior Marielle Cuison said she’s attended almost every ATOG event since her freshman year and has participated in the open mics.

“For me, when I first started going, I found that it’s a great place to express yourself,” Cuison said. “It’s not a debate, it’s a big group of story telling — people telling their stories up there.”

Topics for both open mic performers and featured poets are all over the radar — from racism to sexuality to beauty. Cuison said she likes that she can let her emotions reach every member of the audience.

“The feeling after — it feels so good — especially if your poem tries to send a message, and you feel, at least 100 people heard what I wanted people to hear,” Cuison said. “It’s relieving.”

Cuison, who started contacting potential guest poets during the summer, almost has the lineup set for the year. Poets range from slam poetry competitors to smaller, community-based performers, all of which, Cuison said, she’d checked out on YouTube and heard about through conferences or word-of-mouth.

One change Cuison is trying this year is featuring a lesser-known poet once a quarter, rather than specifically slam poetry competitors.

“Every quarter I’m trying to have at least one poet that’s more of just on the community level, not the big-scale ‘I do this for a living’ thing,” Cuison said.

One such poet is Terisa Siagatonu, a recent University of California, Santa Cruz graduate. The community studies graduate, who is the ATOG featured poet for December, said she caught interest of spoken word poetry during her first year of college when a hip-hip poetry group called Ill-Literacy performed on campus.

“I didn’t even understand; I was blown away,” Siagatonu said. “I was like, ‘I want to learn how to do that.’”

Siagatonu didn’t start performing until her sophomore year of school. And from there, her name as a spoken word poet started to gain recognition.

“That’s when people were like, ‘Woah, she’s actually really good!’ It felt good to get reinforcement from people who like my work,” Siagatonu said.

After numerous gigs around campus, Siagatonu became involved with Youth Speaks, the No. 1 non-profit organization in the country targeting spoken word literacy art education for youth.

“The whole purpose and mission is to utilize oral and written literacy for youth and young people and bring their stories and experiences from the margins to the core,” Siagatonu said.

As a poet, Siagatonu said she writes poems relating to the ideas of home, culture, struggle, heartbreak and most recently the rise in suicides among homosexual youth.

“I come forth with being a queer, woman, student and poet of color, so I carry a lot in-depth,” Siagatonu said. “The main reason I write is because I come from a community that has been silenced for so long — that’s been told ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ I’m reclaiming my word and passing it on.”

Another poet who is involved with youth and poetry in the community is Sacramento native Ike Torres. A spoken word poet since 2005, Torres is an active member in non-profits for youths. Torres said he thrives on interacting with youth through writing.

“Once you break through that first little layer, the kids start getting down and writing and away from the technology and actually pick up a pen and put something down on paper,” Torres said.

A past performer at Cal Poly, Torres said he performs spoken word for the social interaction and the connections he makes with people he’s never met before.

“I always tell people if I couldn’t perform, I wouldn’t be right in the head,” Torres said. “It’s something I need.”

Cuison said she is happy to be welcoming both returning and new acts to ATOG.

“It’s a mixture of old and new,” Cuison said. “Some of the poets have been here before and some (people have) never heard of. So every time they go to ATOG, they’re in for something different. No two poets are the same; it’s all original.”

Whether audience members come to spread their word at open mic or simply attend to listen, Cuison said, ATOG will always be a place to share messages and points of view.

“If they don’t want to go in and do open mic, all they have to do is go in and listen … with an open mind,” Cuison said.

ATOG is every first Wednesday of the month in Chumash Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

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