Slam poets hit on hard topics

Fernanda Chamorro/Sun Star Reporter
Jan. 31, 2012

UAF photojournalism student Robin Wood, 24, recites his first poem of the Poetry Slam night held on Jan. 26, 2012. Wood took first place in the contest. Fernanda Chamorro/Sun Star

Students projected their feelings of anger, satisfaction and rejection in a poetry slam at the Wood Center Multi-Level Lounge on Thursday, Jan. 26. Although I arrived as a spectator, the organizers quickly recruited me as a judge.

The Poetry Slam took place in the Wood Center Multi-Level Lounge on Thursday, Jan. 26. They let go of all fear as they stood in front of peers and expressed their sentiments towards strong topics, such as death, sex and addiction.

“Poetry is meant to be said, it’s meant to be heard. So, I felt like I had something to say and I wanted to say it,” said 24-year-old photojournalism student Robin Wood, who won first place.

At first there was a small crowd, and not enough people were willing to become judges. So when host Raif Johnson-Kennedy, 29, looked at me and asked me if I wanted to judge, I accepted the offer.

Having to decide a score was difficult because the students’ poems were so enjoyable and the competition so fierce . The Student Activities Office put on the event, which began at 7:30 p.m. with five new, nervous participants and an audience that was not easily offended.

Each poet had a personal style and showed a different approach to presenting. Students were free to choose their method of performing. One used a trash can to prop up her computer, others read off of printed papers and some recited them from memory. One psychology student, 18-year-old freshman Heather Bieber who came in fourth place, used her presentation to promote her new club, Supernatural 101.

There were three rounds with  each participant reciting one poem per round. The three judges had to write a score between 1 and 10 on a board and hold it up for the host to read aloud. A scorekeeper kept track of the scores and tabulated them at the end. Johnson-Kennedy was comical and entertained the audience in between poets by reading his own poems. A couple of people mentioned to him that he should compete sometime.

“I really liked being able to sit and listen to everybody’s original poems,” said freshman Rachael Satterwhite, 18, who had two friends perform. “And it’s really kinda inspired me to just want to go home and write a couple [of poems] and come back and do it next time they have it.”

It is important for people to come out and release their thoughts before they change and manifest into different things, Johnson-Kennedy said. Everyone goes through hard times and there is a lot that we feel uncomfortable with discussing or cannot discuss with family, but this is a way to let go.

“It’s more of a performance as well,” he said. “There’s a difference between a poem that’s written for the page and a poem that’s meant to be performed, so as people keep doing it, they’re gonna get better at kinda performing it … and get [your]  message across a lot better by doing that.”

The prizes were Slam Poet “Mighty” Mike McGee’s booklets, which he sold at his show on Oct. 11, 2011 and contained some of his poems.

“I liked Raif doing the hosting, he’s really funny,” 30-year-old Brandon Reid said. “It was a pretty good idea to open the floor up for people… to see all those people that aren’t afraid to share what they’re thinking or writing.”

SAO will organize Poetry Slams the last Thursday of every month, help hang up the fliers and set up for the crowd. The next one will take place on Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. and participants must come prepared with three poems.

“It is nerve-wrecking,” said 20-year-old Grace Bieber, a sophomore who participated for the first time but did not place. “But I feel like once I read the poems and I actually release them, I feel a lot better.”

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