This past Friday, Lyrical Alliance (LA) hosted Rowan University’s third annual College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) Qualifier. A stage was set up in the Student Center pit to give poets a chance to “yell” their original work.
Five students were chosen to be part of the university’s slam poetry team attending CUPSI at the University of Texas at Austin in April. The top poet also won a trophy inscribed “Best in Bed.”
Five judges were randomly chosen from the audience, some never having heard spoken word before. Seven poets competed and were gradually eliminated through a series of three rounds. Olympic style judging was used, the judges each holding up a score between one and 10. Out of the five numbers, the highest and lowest scores were dropped and the three middle numbers added up.
“Rowan University runs our qualifiers and the competition for the qualifiers the way Poetry Slam Incorporated runs their national qualifiers,” explained Linette Reeman, a sophomore history major and co-president of LA.
Topics covered by the poets included family, love, alcoholism, identity and overcoming challenges.
“I go up there and I just want to say how I feel,” said sophomore psychology major and LA co-president Alyssa Bayley. “The numbers really don’t mean much to me as long as I get out how I feel and what I need to say on stage.”
In the middle of the competition, special guest Alain Ginsberg, a spoken word poet from Baltimore, MD, performed original poetry for the audience.
“A lot of my pieces, for the most part, are autobiographical, whether it’s a lived experience or experience I’ve had to interpret over time through the course of poetic language,” Ginsberg said.
By the end of the night, Alyssa Bayley was determined the winner, receiving the Best in Bed trophy and a spot on the Rowan University CUPSI team.
“I’m really excited but also kind of nervous because CUPSI is a really big deal,” Bayley said.
Reeman agreed, adding, “There’s people filming and there’s a lot of famous national slam people who run workshops. A lot of famous people at the national slam level coach teams.”
It is evident that spoken word poetry carries more importance to the performers than just the competition.
“Through spoken word . . . I’ve met a whole bunch of awesome people,” Reeman said. “Since becoming involved with spoken word poetry I’ve come out as agender and so that’s given me a platform to talk about my identity. It’s given me a family.”
The audience consisted of many spoken word poets and fans of spoken word as well as students who were seeing spoken word for the first time.
“I actually really enjoyed judging the competition,” said audience member and judge Moira Cunningham, a freshman English education major. “I had never seen slam poetry before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was pretty blown away by the acts.”
“I loved it,” said senior writing arts major Liz Ditzel. “It was absolutely awesome. The performances were all spot on. My friends were great. The people that I don’t know were great. I’m just so proud of everyone up there.”
The event was a success, despite some challenges along the way.
“I am feeling very hyped,” said Reeman. “I am super proud of Lyrical Alliance. We put this whole event together with only a month of help and only a week of having this space. I am super impressed with how we did having just got our charter. I’m just really, really happy.”
Lyrical Alliance meets on Tuesdays 6:30-10:00 p.m. in room 321 of Bunce Hall.
– Feature Image: Clarence E. Wright performed Friday night in the Student Center Pit at the slam poetry competition. Wright was a guest for the Lyrical Allance. -Assistant Photo Editor/Amanda Palma
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