Poetry to slam campus on Friday

If you think poetry is too sophisticated and boring, think again.

Students will compete in a poetry slam contest on Friday at 7 p.m. in Newcomer Center 17. While some poetry slams include works read by other people, all the poems that are read at this event will be original works by students and faculty (although faculty are not eligible for prizes).

“The poems are written with intent to be spoken, so they’re more fluid, colloquial and dramatic than poems on a page,” said Hillary Watson, a senior who is coordinating the event. “It’s not like reading poetry for your English class. It’s somewhere between a live concert and a theater or play vibe.”

Poetry slams typically take place at coffee shops or bars. Judges are randomly selected from the audience. Their job is to narrow down the field of poets to three finalists during three rounds of competition.

The three finalists then compete for a top prize, based on no set judging criteria. “Their judgments can be fairly arbitrary, but it’s all in good fun,” Watson said.

Audience members who are not selected as judge are still very much a part of the action. “The audience is expected to respond to the poet’s tone and words, sometimes with cheers, sometimes with insults,” said Watson. “I once went to a poetry slam in D.C. where audience members threw pens at the poet if they really liked his/her work.”

“Other slams have buzz words, so if a poet says a certain word, the audience repeats it, or they have catchphrases that are call-and-response,” Watson said. “It’s all part of the scene, but we’ll try to keep out the negative on Friday.”

Jessica Baldanzi, assistant professor of English, who is coordinating the event with Watson, believes the poetry slam will be a good stress reliever.

“It’s a stressful time of year,” Baldanzi said. “What better way to blow off some steam?”

“We have some amazing spoken poets on this campus,” Baldanzi said. “It’s always a treat to be able to see them perform … and to find out what new voices are emerging.”

Written by Tyler Falk

is a senior English major from Champaign, Ill.

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