When Joëlle Simeu, ‘20, was a sophomore, she tweeted that she would start a radio show one day before she graduated.
As her college years went on, she grew weary and struggled to find time and her initiative. But her senior year, her dream manifested when her friend and student makayla lorick, ‘19, came to her about starting a podcast.
As seniors, they knew they had no time to waste.
“I knew I wanted to do a podcast or a radio show this year about poetry and spoken word, so when [makayla] said it I was like ‘well, perfect’,” Simeu said.
The two came together to create “The Living Poets Society,” a name that tips its hat to the classic 1989 film “Dead Poets Society,” with a more personal touch. They said they are claiming a contemporary space for themselves that hasn’t been celebrated enough.
“A lot of times when people think about black poetry, they pull up historical figures,” lorick said. “But we’re living and creating right now so Joëlle and I are trying to actively engage with our contemporaries.”
Simeu and lorick want to increase the visibility and complexity of black writers. They said the narrative of black people, in and out of literature, is too often one-dimensional and repetitive.
“I don’t want people to think when I leave this campus that my narrative was about suffering,” lorick said, because she “has joy in so many places.”
She said that the narrative of black people has always been about negative aspects, such as pain and suffering, and often lacks the positive aspects.
Simeu said that her visibly cheerful aura and presence on campus has led others to think that she is always happy and feels that the podcast allows her to share all sides of herself.
“A lot of people see me as happy all the time, but I have so many emotions on a day-to-day basis,” Simeu said. “It’s easier to accept that you, as a black student, are either really suffering on this campus or not, [but] I’m not limited to only one emotional language.”
Simeu and lorick recognize that they have given themselves a platform to reach many supportive peers inside and out of campus community and decided to invite those voices in. They’ve incorporated Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Tammy Futrell’s voice into their intro, and lorick’s daughter, Zara, has made quite a few appearances.
In an episode titled “What Does Self Love Look Life?” they invited Assistant Director of Admissions Amber Cooper, ‘12, to discuss the portrayal and practice of self-love today.
Cooper said that she was beyond prepared to be a guest speaker and that she proudly supports the Living Poets.
“It makes me so proud to see them actually bring this to life and leave something behind,” Cooper said. “I hope this idea of marginalized–so to speak–voices talking about things that is universally experienced catches on.”
The Living Poets Society currently has four episodes out: their debut, self-love, origin stories and black masculinity and femininity. They release weekly episodes via Spotify and SoundCloud on Sunday evenings.