words that make a difference: Rhyme, rhythm and song

Phillip Elliott, Living Writers series performer

I started rapping when I was in high school.  As a writer, my primary strength is my ability to rhyme, and there's a strong sense of rhythm and  movement throughout my work. To challenge myself, I've had to become more familiar with slant rhyme, alliteration, assonance and consonance. While I have been published solely on the merit of my written work, I'm a performer, and have learned to fill up a room with my voice and command people's attention. Recently I've become interested in slam poetry as well, which is performance-oriented and with less emphasis on rhyme.

One of the strengths of poetry is its ability to affect the  listener in a profound way. It's possible to reform ignorance and uplift people.  Instead of using cold logic, you illustrate an idea through making the audience experience emotions.  Having many female friends with negative body images prompted me to write the slam poem "Cosmopolitan Gal": 

Somewhere there's a cosmopolitan girl, squinting in front of a mirror
Holding a pair of tweezers trying to remove
the smallest excuse as to why she's not, beautiful.
Somewhere there's a cosmopolitan gal
Bent over a garbage, pale
Feeding insecurities regurgitating impossible standards
Clutching her stomach because, no one has ever touched her heart

All my Creative Writing courses emphasize concrete detail, and all my English courses have advised specificity as the best route to clarity. Using these two principles as the foundation of my writing has truly elevated my craft. Professors Leigh Wilson and Donna Steiner have been especially helpful. Last fall, Leigh invited me to speak and perform at the Bruce Pandolfo event for the Living Writers series:

It was the most prestigious venue, and most elaborate performance of my career. I grew a lot as in artist in order to be prepared. Donna is always willing to listen to a new piece I've written and give advice.  In addition to exposing  me to new slam poets, Donna has also helped me become more of a poet on the page. My emphasis on line breaks, punctuation and formatting have blossomed under her tutelage. Choosing to major in both English and Creative writing has played a tremendous role in molding my work.