Def Poets J. Ivy, Shihan to headline Poetry Slam in Kiva

Daniel Moore

Words, rhymes and beats will fill the Kiva tonight when Shihan “The Poet” and J. Ivy hit the stage during Poetry Slam, presented by the Kent State NAACP chapter.

“I jump at the opportunity of performing in front of the student body,” Ivy said. 

Both poets have been featured on multiple seasons of HBO’s Def Poets, a show that celebrates spoken word poetry hosted by hip-hop artist Mos Def.  

Ivy said he was raised in what some people would call the “ghetto” part of Chicago, which helped shape his poetry. Chicago, he said, is both a segregated and loving city, and his father, who was part of the radio business, passed down creative strength to him.

“Never give up on your dreams,” Ivy said. “I’m living mine. A lot of people wouldn’t expect to be able to make a living being a poet.”

Ivy won a Grammy in 2005 with Kanye West

for his work on West’s albumThe College Dropout, which featured a poem by Ivy. Since his breakthrough, he has collaborated with artists such as The Roots, Dave Chapelle, John Legend, Common, RZA and Common, according to a press release. His debut solo album, Here I Am, was released late 2010.

To Shihan, poetry is “just a story” covering a “wide range of emotions.”

“I’m a storyteller,” he said. “A poet is someone who is very genuine in what they’re talking and writing about.”

A native of New York City, Shihan’s writing career began in 1989 when he received a full scholarship to the Williston North Hampton School in Massachusetts for creative writing, according to a press release. He is the 2004 National Poetry Slam Champion and Finalist in 2001, 2003 and 2005. He is the only poet to have a poem named “Download of the Week” on

His 2005 debut album, The Poet, sold over 4,000 copies in the U.S.

Shihan said the most important part of the show for students is opening themselves up. 

“Students should expect to see and hear just about everything,” Shihan said. “They should feel inspired, as if they were touched in some way.” 

The 7 p.m. show is free for all Kent State students and $5 for non-students. 

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].