Mason Granger, one of the founding members of The Mayhem Poets, visited Madison, Wis., for the first time nearly 14 years ago for a mid-April performance at Overture Center. The group’s visit coincided with the first warm day after a long Wisconsin winter.

“Everybody was outside,” he recalled. “There were so many happy people everywhere.”

The Mayhem Poets spent some downtime along Lake Mendota at Memorial Union Terrace among a thousand smiling people, creating one of Granger’s most memorable moments on tour. 

So memorable, the moment could be made into a poem. Because that’s what The Mayhem Poets do. They create poetry from everyday life.

“Poetry can exist in many ways, anywhere,” said Granger. “Anything can be made into poetry, and you can enjoy it any way you want.” 

Granger and his college friends Scott Raven, Mikumari Caiyhe and Kyle Rapps make their living on poetry. 

Their story began at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. in the early 2000s. The young men were fans of “Fight Club,” a movie released in 1999 in which the characters were not happy with society nor their place in it. The characters created Project Mayhem; similarly, the Rutgers students started Verbal Mayhem, a poetry open mic night, which continues weekly at Rutgers to this day.  

After graduation, one of the Verbal Mayhem regulars taught English at a school in New Jersey. 

“When he got to the poetry unit, he thought the students would like the kind of poetry we did at Verbal Mayhem, so he invited Scott and Kyle to his class,” said Granger. 

Afterward a light bulb went off in their heads. They realized every English teacher around the country could use help teaching poetry to their students. They began reaching out to superintendents, principals and PTA groups, promoting The Mayhem Poets as a more engaging and visceral way to experience and learn about poetry. 

The Mayhem Poets have been touring since 2006 and have visited 49 states. 

Coming to Overture Center on Friday, May 5, The Mayhem Poets will present two daytime performances as part of Overture’s OnStage student field trips program and one public evening performance. 

Granger describes their style as a mix of stand-up comedy, poetry and The Moth live storytelling events. The poets touch on a wide variety of interests, making you think about racial identity, climate change, hip hop, politics, environment, love.

“We universally connect to these themes because they embrace what it means to be a human,” said Granger. “You’ll likely hear your thoughts and feelings coming out of our mouths.”

Granger lives in Los Angeles and works as deputy director for Get Lit, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of spoken word, technology and community to ignite student engagement, literacy and young voices around the globe. He continues to enjoy performing 1-2 weeks per month with The Mayhem Poets. 

He looks forward to sharing the joy of poetry with audiences in Madison, “one of his favorite places to visit.” You’ll likely find him soaking up the sun at Memorial Union Terrace and—at some point during his visit—indulging in cheese curds!