UCF student Myles Yates has a certain spark that’s hard to forget.
The junior finance major speaks with a powerful baritone voice that’s incredibly recognizable. He often gets mixed up with God, Morgan Freeman or the reincarnation of Barry White, he said.
Yates speaks in a very formal manner with his distinct voice, but he isn’t known for those traits. Yates is a prominent leader of Project SPIT, Student Poetry Initiating Thought, a UCF organization devoted to creating a spoken word or written poetry community on campus.
“If it weren’t for going to events with spoken word poetry, I’d just be a background character,” Yates said. “I was always ‘the quiet kid’ at school, but now all my friends know me as ‘the kid who writes too much.”
Yates attended his first poetry open mic as a freshman in fall 2014 and was inspired from the get-go.
“I felt absolutely floored,” Yates said. “It was one of those ‘what’ moments, for sure. The energy and the way I felt was like nothing I had ever experienced before.”
After that night, Yates wanted a piece of the action.
“I went to a few more open mics, and I eventually got to perform,” Yates said. “Poet Asia Samson performed at this event called Java Jives and he was amazing. There was an open mic after his performance, so I went up. I didn’t even read a poem that I wrote. I just freestyled it because I was that inspired.”
Shortly after getting more involved in the poetry scene, Yates’s doctor warned him that he may have a heart murmur. This inspired him to write a poem entitled “Heart Murmurs,” which he recited at another poetry event. An audience member came up to him after his performance and praised his work.
“He told me he had been having heart issues for most of his life and that my poem really made him feel,” Yates said. “Poets generally want to write something that most people can relate to … My speaking of something that not a lot of people have dealt with [was] missed by most but impacted by few heavily.”
Thankfully, after a few more visits to the doctor, Yates was told he had a healthy heart.
Since then, the poetry inspiration has been striving to write impactful pieces that will inspire and relate to his audiences in an honest manner. Yates stresses the importance of being “real” in his work.
“What you put on paper is a part of you,” Yates said. “You have to be authentic with your writing, and the most important traits in poetry are empathy and perseverance.”
Yates later got his first taste of a poetry competition in Project SPIT’s annual One Night Slam event in fall 2015. The competition is broken into several rounds. Although this was his first competition, Yates advanced to round two.
He opened the first round with “Cupid,” an original poem in which he describes the god of desire as if he were a drug dealer trying to sell everyone love.
“Cupid” was a hit among the other poets at the event.
In the second round, he performed “Talking to Myself,” a poem in which Yates discusses his life expectations, emotions and burdens to his own reflection in the mirror.
In April, Yates joined his fellow Project SPIT members at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in Austin, Texas. This was the first time Yates performed in front of a crowd from different parts of the country.
“There were students there from all over,” Yates said. “”It was incredible.”
Yates continues to perfect his craft by going to events around town and currently residing as Membership Intake Director of Project SPIT.
Getting involved around town and on campus is a great way to grow as a poet and became more in tune with himself, he said.