March 27, 2014

By Meagan Winker, Staff Reporter

Crowd Watching Poetry Slam at the Landing (courtesy of Chelsea Lear-Ward)

Crowd Watching Poetry Slam at the Landing (courtesy of Chelsea Lear-Ward)

On March 19, 2014, the Poetry Slam Club hosted a three round slam where eight people got up on stage at The Landing at the University of Maine at Farmington to perform their self-written slam poetry in an attempt to win a $50 prize. Senior Maileny Guillen won with a score of 85.9.

Before the event even began, five audience members were asked to volunteer as judges. All of the performers of the night were judged by the five random listeners and were asked to score each performance on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst, 10 being the best).

The slam started off with what Nicole Byrne, president of the Slam Poetry Club called “a sacrificial poet.” A high school girl read one of her poems so that the judges could practice giving scores, but also because she wasn’t a UMF student so she couldn’t compete for the $50 first place prize.

“That was one of my favorite poems of the night,” said Allie Carpenter, a senior Psychology major who served as one of the five judges of the slam. Carpenter has a “deep-seated interest in poetry”, which is why she chose to be judge. “I also really like to judge people,” she said.

During the first round, all eight poets got up on stage under the red, blue, and yellow spotlights and performed poems that they had written. The four poets with the highest scores moved on to the second round and then the two poets with the highest scores faced off in the third round. Maileny Guillen, a Creative Writing major, won the $50 prize of the night after advancing through all three rounds with some of the highest scores of the night.

The hardest part for the poets was not the competition itself, but simply just getting up on stage and performing their poetry. Elise Musicant, one of the participants who made it to the second round in the poetry slam, voiced her challenges. “I’m very shaky and I’m a very shy person, so going up is really tough for me,” she said.

“Poetry, to be read out loud, is a lot harder than just plain poetry because you have to factor in how many people are going to listen, you have to factor in how long they’re willing to listen, and a lot of people like humorous poetry.” Musicant went on to say that humor is not what she usually writes, which is another challenge in delivery.

Carpenter agreed that funnier poems were more likable. She laughed at and thoroughly enjoyed one student’s reading of a funny poem called “Ode to Tequila.”

The courage it takes to get up on stage made the night’s prize even more significant. “We’re all poets. We all think people should be compensated for doing a good job,” said Byrne.

While the room wasn’t packed, Byrne thought the event was a success. “ I think it went really well,” she said. “We had a nice turn out both for audience and performers. And it’s nice to see a crowd come out.”

There was almost a slight hiccup before the slam even started, though, according to Musicant, who is also the vice president of the Slam Poetry club. “We have to have eight competitors to do the fifty dollar prize and we had exactly eight,” said Musicant. “So it was lucky but it was one of those nail biting things.”

Both Byrne and Musicant stressed the difference between slam poetry and what Musicant called poetry “written to be on paper”.

“A lot of people get confused on where the line is between like page poetry or slam poetry,” said Byrne. “But the best mindset to have is that slam poetry, especially for competition, includes a theatrical element. You’re a performer, not just a poet.”

Musicant concurred. “A lot of people who write good slam poems are also good actors, too,” she said.

Though this is the last big slam event of the semester, Byrne said the club likes to try to hold at least one event every month. “We’re trying to get more involved with the community. We’re working with the Farmington Public Library to perhaps run something in the near future,” she said.

The Slam Poetry club meets every Wednesday at 7:30PM in the Creative Writing House of the 3rd floor for any students interested. “Our goals as a club is to help each other hone our craft so we do a lot of workshops, we do prompts, and we watch a lot of performances, because the best way to learn how to become a better performer is to watch people who are really good at it,” said Byrne.