ASAP hosts Rudy Francisco for a night of poetry and expression

Jimmy Conroy | @jimC__, Contributing Writer

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Francisco is best known for his appearances on The Jimmy Fallon Show and his willingness to address sensitive topics in his work.

The Alabama Student Association for Poetry (ASAP) is hosting Rudy Francisco for a night of poetry in the Ferguson Student Center Theater. Francisco, a world-renowned poet known for his appearances on “The Jimmy Fallon Show” and triumphs in the slam-poet community, will be performing several of his famous works. 

Francisco won several Poetry Slams and wrote four books of poetry on his journey to becoming one of the most accomplished spoken-word poets in the country. He became the first to do a full-length poem on the “Tonight Show” in 2018 when he performed his spoken-word poem “Complainers” during National Poetry Month.

“What I like most about Rudy’s specific type of poetry is that he’s raw,” said Jason Anthony, ASAP vice president and a senior from Birmingham majoring in telecommunications and film. “Some of it is unfiltered, and it’s very transparent. It’s an accurate representation of what real life is like. I believe that serves as a reflection of what life is for Rudy and his perspective on it. I feel like he does a good job as far as comparing and evoking that emotion toward his audience through his performance. His performance is one of the key aspects that I love about his poetry because it’s very active.”

Francisco isn’t shy about tackling sensitive topics. He incorporates personal and political narratives into his poems, using an honest and humorous approach to discuss race, class, gender, love and self-reflection.

“He talks about really difficult subject matters in a really gentle and compassionate way,” said Kaitlyn Cahill, ASAP president and a junior from New Orleans majoring in business management major from New Orleans. “I think that when you’re dealing with something that might be political or taboo to talk about, you talk about it with compassion and empathy. You are being very gentle and open about it, or you have a perspective and you try to see where everyone is coming from. I think that it’s a really good way to bring about talking about change in those areas.”

In the three years since its inception, ASAP has been committed to growing the Tuscaloosa poetry scene. The group hosts bi-weekly poetry slams and open mics at Monarch Espresso, encouraging students to express themselves through their poems, songs or monologues.

“Poetry is a language that all people can understand, and it is a powerful connector for people,” said Jeffrey Kelly, ASAP secretary and a junior from Birmingham majoring in English. “With poetry, it’s a form of expression that is really beautiful and brings people to campus, so that is what we want to present.”

ASAP has hosted events similar to this in the past. Last year, as a part of Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month, Mercedes Holtry came and performed for the group. They’ve also hosted a handful of African American poets over the last two years for The Blackout, an event celebrating black history and culture.

Cahill believes that Francisco is the most accomplished poet ASAP has hosted to date.

“Just the opportunity to have Rudy come is really great,” Cahill said. “He’s really well respected in the poetry community, and it’s just a really great opportunity for UA to have him come perform here. In terms of awards and what he’s done, I’d say he’s the biggest poet to come here.”

Overall, the goal of ASAP is to open students’ minds to the world of poetry and continue to expose them to poets they otherwise might never have the chance to experience in person.

“We just wanted to bring in someone that was known and successful in spoken poetry and get people to see the successes you can have with that,” said Kelly. “It’s not exclusively poetry –  it’s all about self-expression.”

ASAP goes beyond open mics and special events. As an official university club, they gather for regular meetings, participate in community outreach initiatives and host workshops for students looking to refine their poetry skills.

“We want to bring awareness to the poetry community and spread that art form around campus,” Anthony said.