[Video] David Gaines And Davon Clark: The Power Of W.O.R.D.S.
College isn’t only about that pricey piece of paper. There’s more to learn outside of the classroom and a chance to leave something behind. Slam poets and best friends David Gaines and Davon Clark are two Penn State seniors who decided to build something.
The Penn State W.O.R.D.S. club, Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories, is a creative writing club dedicated to slam poetry and the power of the spoken word. Gaines and Clark serve on the executive board as the President and Performance Team Coordinator respectively. Even though they aren’t the founders of W.O.R.D.S., they’ve built the club from a small group of students stumbling into empty Willard rooms for meetings to dozens of student writers and performers who compete nationally.
C.U.P.S.I., The College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, is a slam poetry competition of more than 60 college competitors produced by the A.C.U.I., or the Association of College Unions International. Gaines and Clark placed 27 out of 68 at this year’s competition with their group poem “Get Your Fix.”
“The competition was in Austin Texas this year, and we placed 27, which was phenomenal for a first time team, but we could’ve done much better. None of us had ever been before,” Gaines said.
Many competitors from universities like Brown, Princeton, and UCLA, performed poems about a variety of topics — from the LGBTQA community to racial tension in the United States. But Gaines and Clark had a different story to tell. ‘Get Your Fix’ is about religion and drug abuse.
“We always knew we had a lot of overlap in terms of topics and things we relate to that would always make good group poems. So when we made the national slam poetry team for C.U.P.S.I., we were like, this is our chance.”
Gaines and Clark have two different stories about finding religion, but they have similar endings. Gaines grew up in a strict, religious structure, in contrast to Clark’s secular background. When the two students came to college, their disassociation with religion and experimentation with available vices like drugs, alcohol, and sex, put them into a dark place and pushed them to find new understanding. Clark experienced more than just emotional repercussions from his dabbling in drug use.
“I didn’t want to go to class, so my grades plummeted, I got in trouble with my scholarship, things like that,” Clark said.
“Get Your Fix,” is a group poem born out of the special circumstances of each individual’s upbringing and the pair’s shared vision.
Clarke explained the creative direction of “Get Your Fix” and what the religious community’s response taught him about the individualized nature of religion:
Gaines talked about his family’s religious history and why he decided to break from church culture:
Teams are already forming for this year’s CUPIS competition, and hopes are high for the spoken word artists.
“Davon is definitely going back, he’s going to a lot of individual competitions. I have a bit of a different experience, being the president of W.O.R.D.S. I’m responsible for sending people, and all of those logistics,” Gaines said. “I want to offer that experience to someone else. And another part wants to go and compete, the artistic part wants me to get my name out there and disperse my story.”
Gaines still plans to compete in Penn State’s Slam Series, which is a set of qualifier performances that determine the four-person team competing at CUPSI this year.
The duo is approaching its last two semesters of college, and it looks back at what it built in W.O.R.D.S. as a pivotal and life changing experience.
“I truly do thank God for bringing him into my life. I would ride and die for him, and it was an honor writing this piece with him,” Gaines said about Clark.
They’ve written various group poems, but “Get Your Fix” separates itself as an important artistic, and personal achievement for both individuals.
Watch the recitation of “Get Your Fix” below: