Compassion: Critical

A poet with an appetite for peace

Matt - Sean Hill Image

Sean Hill smiles. Things slow down. His afro bobs with the beat of the universe.

A poet whose mention is commonplace at open mics throughout Southern California, Hill’s known for spinning messages of depth, weight, and beatboxing into engaging spoken word performances.

His words easily make him out to be a thinking man, someone who considers sincerely, perhaps gravely how each moment can be used to bring the best out of the world.

This makes his harmless deportment all the more intriguing: the world is on his shoulders, he just makes it seem so light.

A working actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild, a teacher, and an often-featured performer at venues like the Cobalt Cafe’s Open Reading, Soapbox Sessions, and Au Lac’s Open Mic Night, he’s hard to tie down. But wherever he is, he seems to be nowhere else.

After watching Gandhi a few times, Hill’s central message of “universal inner and outer world peace” was illuminated.

“Through TV. Through music. Through workshops. Through dialogue, especially,” Hill says. “I want to teach people how to express themselves as fully and as clearly as possible.”

As an artist, he has a diverse toolbox, but he says poetry is the mainstay of his altruistic arsenal.

“I feel like the power of poetry to do that is unrivaled,” he says.

Hill’s performance of his original poem “Only Human” earned him first place in a spoken word competition hosted by which saw submissions from across the globe late last year. He points to his class discussions at California State University, Northridge as pivotal experiences that nurtured his craft.

“Poetry is beautiful,” Hill says. “But then, if it’s not discussed and interpreted, and re-thought about and re-discussed, it doesn’t have its full potential achieved.”

IMG_8494240659619Hill led an after school workshop at Oscar de la Hoya High School in LA for two years, walking students through poetic exercises, writing techniques, and improv games. He says he wanted to “help get them out of their shells. Basically, get them to a comfort level where they would want to express what’s in their minds and hearts.”

As he describes a guided meditation he used in that workshop, a rhythm creeps into his voice.

“Stare at one point and only let thoughts come to you about the thing you’re looking at.” It’s like he’s singing a Buddhist ballad. “Relax your body. Relax your mind the best you can, and then start letting those thoughts go out.”

He shows his listeners’ thoughts in and out of an imagined revolving door until only one thought remains.

“Focus on that one thought, and then let that one thought go.” The quiet pause he lets linger seems to float.

With emphatic calmness, he quotes a Chinese proverb, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” It means a lot to him.

The excitement in his voice, as it often does, dials up. “If people fully grasped what that meant, we would be on the next evolutionary ladder towards absolute unity, towards absolute freedom of thought and heart to where we know we’re all trying to do our best on this planet.”

The open mics he frequents make for a sort of hallowed ground for Hill’s community-oriented poetic purposes.

“We can talk about the hardest things and feel the hardest things in this life through poetry and have a fun time doing it,” he says.

The phrase “critical compassion” slips out as he paraphrases the Dalai Lama. There’s a curious ring to it, but it sums him perfectly.

“It’s one of the greatest things we could ever hope to accomplish,” he says.

Hill is collaboratively writing a book, iWrite, with fellow poets C.R. Cohen and Jason Brain that will offer the trio’s perspectives on the modern writer’s journey. His work can be found on his formidable YouTube channel and Bandcamp store, and he can be reached via his Facebook page.


Matt Gottesman is the host of a weekly podcast, “Speakeasy,” on


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