By Lisa Biehle Files
At the closing celebration for the One Earth Film Festival, Isaiah Mākar presented his Spoken Word piece, “Earth’s Breakup Letter: Please Don’t Leave Me for Mars,” on March 11, at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Recently, he answered a few questions about his journey from a shy kid to a Spoken Word entrepreneur. This interview is followed by his Spoken Word poem from the closing celebration.
Q: Why do you call yourself Isaiah Mākar instead of the name you were born with: Jamael Clark? A: From elementary school through college, I always wrote my name as "Jamael I. Clark," hiding my middle name, Isaiah. Someone asked me, "Why don't you write out your middle name? It's powerful." I used to have low self-esteem and was extremely introverted. Super shy. I would hide a lot about myself, including my middle name.
Once I became more comfortable about who I was I realized I was recreating myself and my identity, therefore I decided to channel that concept into what people call me. "Mākar" is a synonym for "creative artist/poet". It stems from the Greek word, "Makarios," which means "happiness." "Isaiah Mākar" reflects my identity and my purpose.
Q: In what way did Spoken Word Club have an impact on you when you were a student at Oak Park River Forest High School (class of ‘09)?
A: I used to have the fear of public speaking and social anxiety when I was a freshman at OPRF in 2005. I absolutely HATED poetry. Peter Kahn, who is the Spoken Word director and English teacher at OPRF, tried to recruit me to join the club. I told him, "I hate poetry, and I am never joining the Spoken Word Club."
I was inspired by music. I decided to explore the aesthetics of poetic elements to convey a message through storytelling. Eventually, I joined [the Spoken Word Club] my junior year after teaching myself how to write poetry to become better at communicating with people. Once I joined, my entire life was remixed.
I performed in four showcases, performed at the Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Awards, and performed a rap in front of the entire school at the annual MLK assembly before graduating high school. My grades improved, my social skills improved and Spoken Word is now the foundation of my business: Impact Mākars.
The OPRF Spoken Word Club is the best program I've experienced. It gave me the tools to carve my identity.
Q: Tell us about the research you did at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) when you studied Communications (class of ’16)?
A: I was accepted into the UIC Summer Research Opportunities Program where a cohort of roughly 35 students from all over the country conducted research of their choice. My research was focused on how to use poetry in the classroom to enhance and sustain student engagement, and why it's needed to sustain student engagement. I wanted to understand how did Spoken Word poetry transform me academically and socially?
After interviewing poetry educators in the Chicagoland area, I used a grounded theory approach to frame my research and pinpoint the patterns/themes from the interviews. I discovered that Spoken Word poetry activates six communication styles that are transferable beyond a stage and a page and can be applied in the classroom and the workplace to improve learning engagement. I designed a cross-disciplinary method from my research. It's called the Mākar Method.
Q: What is the Mākar Method and how are you using it to shake up/transform organizations and schools?
A: The Mākar Method is a cross-disciplinary learning and development model focusing on engaging employees and educators in their work. By exploring the creative process of writing, editing, and reciting poetry (creative capital), individuals develop the communication skills (cultural capital) that are used in the process of creating Spoken Word poetry and those skills are then applied to remix the working and learning environments to better engage the audience they serve (social capital).
I used the Mākar Method to design Impact Mākars, which focuses on humanizing the workplace by teaching employees transferable communication skills by practicing creative self-care through Spoken Word poetry. impactmakars.com - Make Yourself Known
Isaiah Makar put his method into action at Grainger Inc., DisruptHR, Roosevelt University, and INCubatoredu, using Spoken Word as a tool to promote creativity and communication.
Earth’s Breakup Letter: Please Don’t Leave Me for Mars
Please don’t leave me for Mars!
I over-heard you talkin’ to ya homie, Isaac Newton.
He kept asking you why I am so clingy.
Then, both of y'all tried to theorize the reason I hold you down
and decide to call it “gravity".
I call it being “obsessively possessive,”
see, secretly, I don’t want you to be with another planet.
Tears ﬂood when I vent to my mother’s nature every spring
on how sprung I am about being with another being.
Since birth you admired people who are “down-to-earth.” (not Mars)
When I catch you telescoping your crush at night,
my temper’s temperature infernos my core so hot
that you mistaken my jealousy for global warming.
Perhaps you missed my warning.
The moment my emotions volcanoed for the ﬁrst time
was day I fell in lava with you.
OOOOOOOO, you better not leave me for Mars!
I used to get starry-eyes when you called me “honey”.
Till I found out you are the reason why bees are almost extinct in the ﬁrst place.
You keep leaving our place trashed like your hands are allergic to garbage cans.
Pigeons and squirrels don’t know no better.
Our pets are choking to death on your litter.
Remember, lives cannot be recycled. Bottles can.
All those brands you selﬁe-stick pose in
are businesses bruising my body by what they pollute.
Consume, consume, consume,
soon, I panic attack in a fear that quakes the living rooms.
Each day I wake, I wonder how much more can I take
before I yell “timber!” to my existence.
Leave my plants alone. Those tree branches are my lungs.
Every axe swing is an asthma attack for me.
This is not the type of love I had in mind when I asked you to take my breath away.
Please don’t leave me for Mars…
Spend some time with our Sun.
He has enough energy to solar panel a ray of happiness into our lives.
We been through too many storms to not weather this one.
Out of all 365 days on your calendar,
I would appreciate it if you celebrated me on more dates than the one in April.
If we spend more time together during the other 11 months,
our relationship will sail cleaner waters.
This marriage is still standing.
Rock me to sleep in a dream that doesn’t need another Inconvenient Sequel.
This is the moment when taking care of me becomes your only full-time job.
Don’t make me forest ﬁre you. You ain’t leaving me for Mars.
© Author: Jamael “Isaiah Mākar” Clark