By Kayla Shults
Steven Licardi steps up to the microphone at Tablerstock 2014. Instead of playing music like every other performer that night, he begins reciting poetry.
The crowd goes silent, carefully listening to the emotion behind Licardi’s words. This spoken poetry is, for many students, the night’s most memorable performance.
Graduate student Steven T. Licardi from West Islip, NY earned his undergraduate degree in psychology and philosophy at Stony Brook and has now returned to earn his Master’s degree in Social Work. Licardi meanwhile worked on spoken word poetry for more than a decade.
In his own words, spoken word poetry combines elements of free verse poetry, hip-hop and performance. Unlike traditional poetry, often read aloud with ridged cadence and rhyme scheme, spoken word is typically memorized and more energetic, with body movement, projection, emotion and freedom.
Licardi was introduced to poetry at a young age through a school assignment and hooked instantly.
“I was around 10 years old when I began writing poetry. It was given as an assignment in an English class and students’ poems were subsequently printed in the school newspaper,” Licardi said.
Poetry relieved the stress Licardi faced as a college student. According to Licardi, he did not write poetry at all his first semester here, leading to struggles in school. Once he began writing and performing again, his stress decreased and he could focus on schoolwork.
“Expressing is how I cope and unwind,” said Licardi. “It has helped me to reconcile the divide between my emotions and my thoughts when I struggled with a Pervasive Developmental Disorder as a child. It has helped me to deal with anxiety and obsession, which I have considerable difficulty with.”
Over the years, this form of self-expression grew into something that Licardi uses to raise awareness on issues he says he is passionate about.
“I currently work with the severely mentally ill,” he said. “I’ve also worked for a few years at a nursing home with the elderly with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and I’ve worked with children with Autism, so anything to do with ‘afflictions of the mind’ seem to be subjects I write on often.”
Licardi says he hopes his art encourages people to look at things differently, analyze,understand the world around them and expand the human mind and heart.
Stony Brook students have reacted positively, something Licardi says he is extremely grateful for.
“I feel very blessed by the positivity fellow SBU students have shown me and the overwhelming support they continue to provide. And that is an incredible honor,” said Licardi. “The community has been so enriching to my life that it’s a big reason for why I returned after my undergraduate career to pursue my Master’s in Social Work.”
What used to be just a hobby has also led to Licardi doing live performances across the country and writing a book titled, “Death by Active Movement.” He says he hopes when people read the book they will be able to gain a better understanding of this looming, fearful thing we call death and explore their own life and how loss has enriched it.
The words that Licardi lives by have hugely impacted his art.
“Love and Beauty,” Licardi said. “We are surrounded by beauty; there is beauty everywhere! I think, as a culture, we’re taught to look for the flaws in things. Rather, we need to learn to look for the beauty in things.”
To check out more of Steven’s work, visit his website: TheSvenBo.com.