Students slam crowd with poetry from heart

By Alyssa Dunehew
Sun Star Reporter

Donald Crocker asks for the judges scores at the Poetry Slam on Tuesday evening, January 25th. Alyssa Dunehew / Sun Star

The Wood Center Multi-Level Lounge was home to the Poetry Slam on Tuesday, Jan. 25. The Student Activities Office [SAO] gave students and graduates an opportunity to share their poetry with an energetic crowd of 20.

SAO puts on a poetry slam every month. Although the number of participants and crowd members was low this time, according to Allie Bateman and Elisha Howard of SAO, they’re expecting things to pick up as the semester continues.

Slam poetry is a genre of its own, focusing on the rhythm and stage performance of the poet. There are three rounds and a panel of judges, and each participant is expected to read one poem per round. The first person to come to the stage is called the “sacrifice.” He or she reads a poem, either their own or someone else’s, and is not judged, instead acting as an icebreaker. After each participant has read, the judges are given 30 seconds each to decide on a score to give the performer, on a scale from zero to 10.

The performers were Rhi Johnson, Raif Johnson-Kennedy, Carmen Klooster, and Donald Crocker. Crocker also played the role of emcee, calling participants up to the stage and bantering between poems while the judges decided scores.

Klooster, a freshman, said she first started writing poetry in fourth grade. Among her favorite authors are Scott Westerfeld, Ray Bradbury, and Edgar Allen Poe.

Johnson-Kennedy, a graduate student and artist, has been writing poetry since 2006. One of his most memorable lines came from his third poem: “I guess you can’t say nothing in life, if you want to stay true, you stay silent. But what’s behind it? It’s infinite. You never find it.”  It scored an 8.7, 9.3, and 9.7.

When the judges added up the scores, there was a tie between Crocker and Johnson. Traditionally, a tie is broken with a “haiku showdown,” and the haiku that receives the loudest applause is the winner. Johnson quickly composed a haiku: “Hazed and dazed and confused, like your whole life is made up of these smoke plumes.” This won her a movie pass, the Poetry Slam, and a chance to read a few more lines for the crowd.

SAO will be hosting another poetry slam Feb. 22, and another on Mar. 4. Crocker said that he is starting a slam poetry club and encouraged students who are interested to email him at djcrocker@alaska.edu.

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