Senior interpersonal & organizational communication major Laina Sweetney performed her poetry at last week’s Annual Open Mic Night hosted by the Simmons Multicultural Center.

Sweetney views poetry as an art form where she can express herself and hash out personal experiences, and she hopes that her writing will bring awareness to human rights issues.

A majority of Sweetney’s inspiration comes from the language used in books as she is an avid reader.  Sweetney also uses the theme of personal experience as she tends to write about her family and what it means to be a black woman.

“I don’t necessarily write to fix problems,” Sweetney said. “I do think that when you write about issues people don’t normally talk about, that dialogue is very constructive.  I would say I write to address problems.”

Sweetney’s passion for poetry began at the age of 10-years-old when she saw her older sister writing poetry, but she has recently become more confident with her poetry and has started sharing it with others.

Although Sweetney doesn’t have a favorite poem, Nikki Giovanni is her favorite poet.  When Giovanni visited Florida Southern, Sweetney had the opportunity to meet and speak with her over dinner.

“I love anything she writes,” Sweetney said.  “she speaks about the black experience so gracefully.”

As she continues to grow as a poet, Sweetney hopes to inspire the audience to see things from different perspectives, challenge them, and hopes to touch them on more of an emotional level.

When it comes to preparation for FSC open mic nights, Sweetney does not question herself when she performs and believes her poetry doesn’t always need to have an explanation.

“Poetry doesn’t necessarily have to make sense like a novel,” Sweetney said.  “I just get up, read it with confidence, and hope it makes people feel something.   Even if it’s loathing, rage – at least I’ve gotten some type of reaction.”

Inspired by what’s happening in her day to day life, Sweetney’s poetry is unique.  She realizes it is important to trust in life itself and believes there will always be plenty of material to pull off of as long as she is living.

In time, Sweetney hopes to pull her poetry together and publish it as a book, but she is currently focusing on experimenting with language and style.

Sweetney hopes her performances at open mic nights will inspire others to believe they possess the power to write as she does and to have confidence in their own voices.

“It’s a powerful thing to do, with poetry,” Sweetney said.  “Even if ideas scare you or sound crazy, just write.”


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