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Nav the Poet Comes to Cal U

Brad Britvich, Contributor

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On Wednesday, the Student Activities Board welcomed Nav the Poet to California University of Pennsylvania. Nav is a spoken-word poet who writes poems concerning his life, his father and his Sikh faith.

Wearing turbans is common among Sikhs. They are often mistaken for Muslims, though their beliefs are totally different. Because of this, Nav’s poems deal with the prejudices he and his friends and family have experienced.

As Nav got on stage, he approached the microphone and started in to his first poem of the night, saying “Hey, take that bomb off your head,” something he was once told in an airport.

By performing his poetry, Nav is expressing himself, his thoughts and his feelings about the world.

“I’m blessed not to have experienced any real problems because of the way I look, I’ve never been physically attacked, though I know of people who have,” Nav said. “I’ve been called names and people have said things like “Go back to your own country” but I don’t let it affect me anymore. It just goes in to my poetry. Plus every comment people could make, they’re all so unoriginal. You hear them once and you’ve heard them all.”

Despite what others may think, Nav was born in Long Island, NY, the son of Indian immigrants. He performed poems about his father, comparing him to Superman in one and

expressing the ways in which he had to sacrifice for his children in another. His dad, Nav said, is his biggest fan and keeps all the posters from his performances.

But nobody could have predicted Nav’s venture in to poetry and spoken-word performing.

“I was a pretty shy kid to be honest,” Nav said. “I started because I wanted to get my voice out there and to be heard. One of the first times I gave a poetry performance was in front of about 300 people at Rutgers University. I wasn’t too shy after that.”

In fact, watching him perform now, nobody would guess Nav could be more comfortable anywhere else other than on stage. He talked with the audience, taking questions about Sikhism and his influences.

“I like to talk with the people who come to see me because it gives us all a chance to understand each other more and make connections,” Nav said. “I could come up here and just deliver my poems and leave, but that’s not enough. It’s important to have civilized conversations with each other, it’s rare these days.”

Aside from his faith and overcoming prejudices, Nav also opened up about his struggle with mental health issues with one poem called “What Depression Feels Like.” Nav likened it to travelling through a tunnel without an end.

However, he did offer advice to those who experience similar feelings.

“Sometimes it hits you,” Nav said. “Like personally all this week I felt kind of down but I performed last night and tonight and I feel good. So if somebody is trying to deal with depression, I tell them to find what they love to do by doing many things. Poetry is what helps

me manage everything and everybody has something like that, something they need to find that they love and will help them manage.”

After his performance, Nav stayed to answer more questions from students.

One student, Jasmine Cornelius, was particularly interested in what Nav had to say.

“I sympathize with him, because what he talks about feeling in airports I think it’s similar for people of color everywhere,” Cornelius said. “Like with black people and cops and things like that. It’s wrong, and what he talked about showed how prejudices can be made but also taken down with communication.”

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Nav the Poet Comes to Cal U