Regie Cabico

Slam poet Regie Cabico will perform at Central Washington University on Jan. 31. The event is free and open to the public.

A small stage tucked in the back room of a New York City café is where poet and spoken word artist Regie Cabico found his calling.

With “funky lighting,” its own sound system and standing-room-only Friday night slams, Cabico was pulled to the art form.

“I felt the emotion there,” he said. “I wanted to perform.”

Cabico is visiting Central Washington University on Jan. 30 and 31 as part of the year-long series “Social Justice and Human Rights Dialogues: Migration.”

While it was theater and the powerful poetry in the play “For Colored Girls…” that first inspired him to take the stage, finding monologues that could reflect the world of the openly gay, Filipino-American’s daily life became a challenge. Cabico turned to the latest artistic outlet emerging in the early ’90s: slam poetry.

“In theater you’re taught to hide behind characters,” Cabico said. “In slam poetry it’s just you … I could be me and perform.”

That drive for slam poetry landed Cabico on the “biggest little stage on Earth,” at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City. It was the place in which Cabico says he developed most as a performer and a poet.

Among the café’s other notable regulars was Central Washington University’s Xavier Cavazos, an English professor at CWU and creative writing teacher.

As Cavazos describes it, it was simply by pure “happenstance” that the two met nearly 25 years ago while performing at the café.

“He’s such a warm, kind, cuddly, funny, intelligent person,” Cavazos said. “He brings that courageousness that’s often very difficult to build within artists.”

A product of theatrical training, Cabico developed his slam poetry talents through a combination of self-described “Broadway showstopper” performances and verses reflective of reality.

His early work often addressed his sexuality with a sense of humor and lightness, something that he believes was different for the time, considering the majority of the work produced by openly gay poets was riddled with “dark, depressed themes.”

“In 1993 people were not gay,” he said. “If they were gay they had to be ‘gay’ and if they weren’t gay they’d have to lock themselves in the closet.”

Regarding his early experiences in slam poetry, Cabico said he chose to charge forward. “That’s why I really had to be gay with no looking back … I’m unabashed and unashamed,” he said.

That approach and openness in his work has not gone unnoticed over the years. He has won top prizes in the National Poetry Slam, has been published in more than 30 anthologies, and just recently was asked by NPR to contribute to a series titled “Dear Mr. President.”

Although his work carries a lighter tone throughout, Cabico’s most recent work is driven by themes surrounding social justice — an area that he will focus on with his upcoming visit to CWU on Jan. 31.

Through his poetry Cabico highlights his own personal experiences as a Filipino-America and the son of a migrant family.

Described by Cavazos as “brothers of (the café)” with a love of the early slam poetry era, their friendship has now led the two of them to CWU — if only for a few days.

“Regie’s work speaks to the migrant experience,” Cavazos said. “His message is a message of inclusivity, acceptance and self-love and coming to terms with who you are and your inner-self.”

He will also participate in a slam poetry event at Brooklyn’s Pizzeria hosted by CWU’s Inklings Creative Writing Club on Monday, Jan. 30, and a campus workshop with students.

“Sometimes these poems live in my brain and I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to get out,” Cabico said. “(But) poems are…my story, my gospel truth.”

“I believe everyone can write a poem,” he said. “Everyone has a story to tell.”

McKenzie Lakey writes for the CWU Publicity Center.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.