Hello, my name is Alejandro Derieux-Cerezo. I was in Dominique and Mitchel’s performance poetry club for my freshman year of college (2018-2019). I came to the University of Michigan as a Physics major, where the only experience I had writing poetry was a creative writing class I took my senior year of high school.
My favorite part of the club Dominique and Mitchel led each week was the fact that we were almost always being introduced to new poetry. I personally believe that a great way to hone a skill is to get a good critical eye for the craft. Whenever we would be presented with a new work, either through a performance video, or on paper, we would always work our way through a discussion. This discussion was led gently by Dominique and Mitchel, where the leading questions were always open ended and encouraged a reader response method of looking at the art. This did a lot of good for me as a writer, because it helped me understand the conventions of both written poetry and poetic performance. You need to know the rules before you can break them, and Dominique and Mitchel essentially led a crash course in the do’s and don’ts of poetry, but always trusted us to make our own creative choices. Some big takeaways from the club were things like when we watched a video of “the worst poetry performance ever” and analyzed what about it made us uncomfortable and ruined the performance. Or there was the time Dominique and Mitchel drove us out to a performance space in Ypsilanti to show us the possibilities available to our poetic performances.
On the topic of our actual performances, our performance process was very low pressure while remaining appropriately serious. The expectation for workshops and rehearsals was that we got done what we needed to get done, but never in a way that moved aggressively beyond challenging us.
Dominique and Mitchel were really enigmas to me when I first entered higher education. All my professors were either easy going or dead serious, but they fell right in the valley of the two extremes, bringing a human feeling to all our work together. Where I am now, completing coursework in upper-level poetry writing classes, I still find it challenging to describe the playful patience and decorum that Dominique and Mitchel brought to every club meeting. It's not often you have a teacher who makes you crave their feedback, not solely out of respect, but also out of friendly admiration.