Adding a Puzzle Piece to the Minnesota Writers Series
By Regina Zabinski
An academic tradition of nearly thirty years was carried on with a fresh twist when the Cambridge campus welcomed R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., on the evening of February 18 as the latest guest in the Minnesota Writers Series.
Moniz, an acclaimed Native American author and spoken word artist, is also the current champion of the Indigenous Poetry Slam competition. After making acting his profession for several years, he explains that he took up poetry on a whim and found that it “fits like a puzzle piece.”
About eighty-five students, faculty, and community members were in attendance for the event. Moniz treated the audience to a performance including nearly a dozen of his poems, alternating with anecdotes and answering questions about his personal life. Equipped with an easy-going demeanor and ready sense of humor, he quickly interlocked with the audience as the evening progressed.
Moniz writes because he considers it his personal form of art and it helps to resolve internal conflicts, but ultimately because he likes to tell stories. “When I tell a story, I emote,” he says. With themes ranging from his Native American heritage to reflection on life’s brevity, each poem is packed with striking imagery and delivered with intensity of expression in a smooth baritone perfectly toned by two decades of acting experience.
Moniz writes in free verse in a style which is unrepeatable because it contains so much of his personal character. Just when the hearer feel that he or she is catching on to the rhythm and direction of the piece, Moniz drops a phrase like “slickkicks” or “multiverse”, which won’t be found in any dictionary, yet completely transmits the raw emotional content when heard in context.
After the event’s conclusion, some attendees had intriguing impressions of the performance. “His poetry is so much stronger than what I write,” commented Marian Hawk, a long-time community member and freelance poet. Other individuals picked up on the emotional emphasis Moniz poured into his work as well. Hans Boyum, a PSEO student at Anoka-Ramsey, mentioned that although it was difficult to interpret every detail in the poems as they were being read aloud, what the audience lost in written content was supplied in the author’s dramatic expression of the literature. “Hearing the poet read his own work the way it was meant to be read was definitely very interesting,” he added.
That was the missing puzzle piece.
Minnesota Poet Goes Raw on Stage
By Tom Pier
A rather young crowd filled the dimly lit room, only a few empty seats between strangers. A hush fell over the audience while R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. was introduced, and within minutes the audience was filled with laughter as Moniz laid out his raw, energetic poetry.
Moniz is an accomplished member of the art community who started out as an actor in various plays as well as an appearance in the movie Wooly Boys. It has only been recently, with-in the last four years, that he has delved into poetry as a means to express himself. Many of the themes of his poetry revolve around his life, such as the neighborhood he grew up in, his family, his friends, and, most importantly, his experiences as a Native American.
Even with a vast divide between Moniz’s experience’s and upbringing compared to his audience, he was able to connect with his overwhelmingly jolly personality. Whether through self-depreciating humor, which was followed shortly by a good dose of ego, or through letting the crowd feed of his energy as he expressively read his poetry, the audience was drawn in.
This wasn’t just a simple poetry reading however. Moniz had a message to give to the audience. Between readings he would explain how/why he had written the next particular poem. He gave deep insight into his thinking process. “I like to look at it all.” R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. confided when detailing how he wishes to tell a story through his words.
Throughout the readings the audience watched and reacted to the raw performance. “It was something different. It wasn’t what I was expecting,” said student Dustin Muinkin, who was pleasantly surprised his expectations had been exceeded.
As the Q & A was wrapping up, and after a roaring applause, the once hushed crowd murmured with each other, discussing the message Moniz had brought with him. Surely they will take with them the raw inspiration Moniz shared with them.
What Is True Art?
By Adam Mortensen
CAMBRIDGE – Not often does an individual get the privilege of listening to true art. The 2015-2016 Minnesota Writers Series, an event at the Anoka Ramsey Community College hosted R. Vincent Moniz Jr., a well-known writer/performer, who’s spoken words really captivated all who attended the event.
Moniz Jr.’s introduction to the audience was very soft-spoken, which seemed off-putting considering his stature is not of a small man. However, when he transitioned into his first poem, something of a fire lit up inside the poet.
He spoke with such a dynamic expression and inflexion that numerous members of the audience rose in their seats, instantly drawn in to the alluring tones of his works. In his poem “Reboubted,” Vincent R. Moniz Jr. spoke about the truths behind North American stereotypes:
“When places like the University of North Dakota say ‘Well, we had to keep using the decapitated head of an Indian male as our logo, it was the law.’ Probably thought they would shock, pushing a breathing apparatus of fear and a lead, red lightsaber of hate, but I, I will not be frozen in carbonite stereotype and these, these are not the Indians you’re looking for.”
Each poem related to an individual emotion, often side-by-side with subtle comedy to deliver such a mastery of art in the form of poetry. Alan Duball, a member of the audience and an aspiring poet, had this to say about the guest speaker: “He was very open about his life experiences. Comedy is typically used as a cover up for pain; that isn’t his angle. He uses it as a bridge to open up to his audience and relate his works.”
After Moniz Jr. finished his last poem of the night, he asked questions of the audience. During this time he reverted from an energetic, expressive poet back to his soft-spoken state. This could be perceived as an indication of the level of passion and respect he has for his works.
Vincent Moniz Jr.’s poems could be defined as works of true art, and all who attended the 2015-2016 Minnesota Writers series had the privilege of listening to such art.
Speaker Captivates Students on His Native American Life Through Poetry
By Aaron Christensen
Auditorium G202 came to life on the evening of February 18th when over 60 students and faculty from all walks-of-life strolled in to hear Anoka-Ramsey Community College’s Minnesota Writers Series special guest, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. Before Vincent’s “spoken word poetry” filtered throughout the medium-sized auditorium, William Breen, a member of the English faculty, gave a quick welcome introduction: “R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. has been a part of the Twin Cities artistic community for over two decades as an actor and only recently has begun to share his poetry.” Breen continued to name Vincent’s performance locations and fellow awards, as well as the fact that Vincent “is now the current and reigning Individual World Poetry Slam, Indigenous Poetry Slam Champion.”
After a welcoming applause and a quick handoff of microphones, the room was filled with the booming sound of Moniz’s voice as students attentively listened to him speak about a poem inspired from a Jonathan Thunder painting. After a quick applause, he gave a brief talk about his inspirations. He commented, “I like the stories that are in poems. I like to look at it all and create a story. That is what inspires me.” In follow up with this quote, he resumed his poetry by reading “Who is Coyote” and “Somethingest.” His hands, his expressions, and his stance changed and moved to the rhythm of his free verse poems. “He was very animated. He knew how to weave lines from his personal and interpersonal expressions into his writing,” commented Alan Duball, a student from William Breen’s English class.
Adam Mortensen, a student in attendance agreed: “In general, I liked that he used pop culture to relate to his audience in such a comedic way. In a much more serious way, it allowed him to open up about Native American culture in the United States.” Many students left with refreshments of cookies and bars, plus the reflections of Moniz’s work.
From his collection of poems, Vincent was able to connect with his diversified audience through his “spoken word poetry.” Conclusively, William Breen encapsulated the event by saying, “What I love about Vincent’s poetry is that it reminds us to be alive, to observe, to think hard, and to be tender too. Let ourselves be elated, mournful, pissed off, and in love. I think his work is musical.”
“I’m Really Just a Poet”
By Katie Anthony
The laughs from a full audience of students and community members filled the auditorium room several times during the visit from our guest writer, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. One example was when asked by an attendee of the event “Do you have planned times when you’re writing, or do you mostly write when you’re inspired?”
His response: “I started out just kind of writing cause there was an assignment due and class was in an hour”. That’s when I knew Vincent belonged at our college. On February 18th, Vincent visited the Anoka Ramsey Community College at the Cambridge campus to continue his newly found passion of sharing his poetry. This is something new to Vincent since he’s only been doing it for the last couple years. A couple years was all Vincent needed to be successful with his writing career, as he won a major Poetry Slam competition after only his first entry. He’s also had experience in acting, which contributes to the lively performances we receive when he tells his poems.
My first expectation was a quiet evening of an author reciting his poems. It was fifteen minutes previous to the start of the event and the crowd was looking rather small. But by the time Vincent’s Converse sneakers hit the stage, the seats were almost filled. Vincent had a casual appearance with an easy and outgoing personality.
He put the emotion of his poetry to life when reading his poems, similar to how spoken word artists have a lot of energy when they’re reading their poetry. But according to the writer, that’s exactly what he isn’t. In the writer’s own words, “I’m not really a spoken word artist… I’m really just a poet who really performs his poetry” (R. Vincent Moniz Jr). Vincent uses differences in tones and volume, emotion, hand gestures, and other strategies to make his performance opposite of the plain, monotone poem reading. His enthusiasm seems to come from the same inspiration he felt when he was creating his poetry. As well as making his performance different and outstanding, Vincent kept things relaxed and funny throughout the night with his comments and jokes.
What made Vincent’s poetry outstanding to me was the natural way he told his poetry. Sad times as well as good were talked about, and Vincent knew how to make it emotional but still kept it light-hearted. In fact, the whole crowd seemed to be in the same mood and feel like he did in that moment. That’s what made R. Vincent Moniz Jr. an excellent performer of poetry.