Poet makes an impact

Carlos Andrés Gómez took the podium on Monday night to a packed crowd at the Hawk’s Nest.

As he began his performance with an off-key rendition of “When The Saints Come Marching In,” the crowd looked as though they had little idea what to expect.

Doubts were soon eased however, as Gómez launched into a powerful reading of his poem “Butterfly,” which addresses issues of global poverty and the universal responsibility to try to end it.

Gómez hails from the Bronx in New York City, where he works as a poet, playwright and actor. Prior to discovering his love for the craft, Gómez worked as a social worker in Harlem and the South Bronx, as well as a public school teacher in both Philadelphia and Manhattan.

It was these students for whom Gómez wrote some of his most poignant pieces about the way our society is decimating the self-esteem of young girls, making them feel as though they are worth no more than their physical appearances.

Gómez’s moving poetry has opened countless doors for him; most recently he has won the 2010 “International Poetry Slam Champion” title (for the second time), co-starred in Spike Lee’s movie Inside Man alongside Denzel Washington and Clive Owen, appeared on Russell Simmons HBO series “Def Poetry” and performed on MTV’s first ever Poetry Slam alongside hip-hop legend and lyrical luminary Talib Kweli.

Gómez’s body of work deals primarily with issues many artists avoid, like racism, homophobia and prejudice.

“Page 424,” a poem about African immigrant Amadou Diallo who was shot by four New York City police officers, was named for the 424th page in the biography of Malcolm X.

Other poems take a less serious approach, such as “Juan Valdez (or why is a white guy like you named Carlos?),” which is a proud declaration of his Latino heritage.

During his performance Gómez shared an anecdote with the crowd about a recent revelation he had about his poetry, which was that he would never enjoy the successes he desired if he didn’t “incorporate himself” into the poems.

This revelation led him to the conclusion that despite his best efforts, “I’m still a racist, homophobic fool.”

It’s this kind of glaring honesty and introspection that makes Gómez’s performances so riveting to watch.

This is a man who has the power to give voice to the issues of an entire generation.

He exposes his soul to the audience, often using everyday subject matter (such as an encounter with a thirteen-year-old black kid) to illuminate how far we still have to come before racism is no more.

Gómez’s performance on Monday night was accompanied by a workshop earlier in the day, during which he answered questions about writing and performing.

The evening’s performance was raw and powerful, inspiring tears and leaving the audience with a sense of renewed responsibility for the state of the world around them.