An energetic, supportive crowd gathered in the Cushing auditorium Thursday night for the third annual BC SLAM! (Soul, Love and Meaning) Sunset Slam event. The gathering fostered an intimate, underground atmosphere with soft string lights, flickering electric candles, and lively chattering in the audience. Featuring poets from BC SLAM!’s E-Board, as well as students new to performing, the event thrived on the interaction between the expressive poets and their adoring audience. While many of the poems featured material deeply personal to their performers, the poets received affirmation and support from their listeners, in the form of snaps of agreement, and vocal interjections. Even in a room full of diversity in life experience and styles of expression, everyone united in a profound appreciation for the cathartic art form embodied in slam poetry.
The event showcased the immense creative talents of its poets, which took conventional poetic elements such as rhyme and figurative language, and skilfully used them to express their thoughts. Poetry has the capacity to pack an artistic punch, cutting through potentially lengthy prose iterations of thought and concentrating vivid images and emotion into a sensory experience. But the poems performed at the event developed another dimension as their authors gave them a voice. Whether the poets were avidly gesturing and getting riled up reading their poem, or speaking softly and standing still, the heart with which the poems were written shined through the performances. The audience could more clearly discern the emotional tones that fueled the poems, as the poets raised their voice, or shifted between assertive and introspective tones. The performers would gain momentum through the poem, growing more intense with their deliveries, or take pauses to let their words hang in the air for a moment. Some poems lent themselves to a groovy rhythm with which the poet would vibe, while other rhythms were more erratic and conveyed the conflict of the poem.
Furthermore, the subjects of the poems covered a broad range of topics, many of which related to self-discovery and overcoming hardship. The common threads among the poems grew more pronounced as the crowd murmured and marveled at the performances. Even though the content and style of each poem was uniquely tailored to the lives of the poets, different aspects of the poems resonated with the audience. That’s not to say that everyone in the room understood the lives and anecdotes of the performers as if they were their own. It was, however, remarkable that the audience found many of the poems to be relatable even without all the context and specific details of the poet’s life. Somehow, the musings on relationships, family and social dynamics, and internal conflict possessed an intangible quality that drew out the audience’s inner empathetic tendencies. In all likelihood, it was the talents of the poets to convey their struggles and triumphs in a gripping way that allowed the poems to reach listeners.
The conditions under which the poems were written were varied as well. Some students explained they had written their poem some time in the past, while others had just written them with the Sunset Slam event specifically in mind. Some students reportedly didn’t plan their poems out in a strict sense of the word, which speaks to the scope of methods through which the spoken word genre can flourish.
“Say anything you need to, express how you feel, that’s how we do it here,” Miya Coleman, MCAS ‘19 and co-president of SLAM!, said.
She expressed the desire for SLAM! events to be a safe space for people to get things off their chest, a sentiment that was met with widespread approval from the group. The nature of the atmosphere is a crucial aspect of hosting a poetry performance event, as the sensitive material contained within the poems demands an audience that has an open heart.
It takes courage for people to share their original works, perhaps especially when the poets let listeners in on vulnerable, personal thoughts and experiences. Some performers even stated that the positive energy in the room solidified their intent to share their poetry, and several new performers received a warm welcome to the SLAM! scene. After an evening rife with stories of the endless trials of individual realities, the event reached a collective victory in the celebration of SLAM! poetry.
Featured Image By Isabella Dow