Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Slammin’: UW students compete, learn Saul William’s art of the poetry slam

Students gathered Saturday night in the Memorial Union’s Rathskeller to participate in the university’s first poetry slam.

Poems from the slam, a competition judged by interaction with the audience and how effectively poets express their ideas, ranged from personal anecdotes to social commentary.

The poetry slam was part of a series of events this weekend including a showing of the film “Slam” Saturday afternoon and a writing workshop and performance by Saul Williams Sunday in Memorial Union’s Great Hall.

Williams’ over-capacity audience filled the hall to hear his lyrics and commentary, much of which revolved around war and activism; Williams’ message was students have power and need to “speak up.”

Brittany Reed, who coordinated the weekend’s events, was inspired by Saul Williams’ movie, “Slam,” and wanted the opportunity to expose other students to the world of the spoken word.

“This is inclusive — it transcends boundaries,” she said. “This is meeting a need, and touching people … and that’s what brings us together.”

Both student performers and observers were receptive to Reed’s call.

“I was interested to see what people on campus produce,” Sarah Minsloff, a UW student who writes poetry, said.

Alyson Greenfield, another UW student-poet said the event impressed her as a forum for local talent.

“I love how willing people are to get up and put their heart and emotion into expressing themselves in a passionate way,” Greenfield said.

According to judge Ahmaud Johnson, a creative writing faculty member at UW who judged the event as part of the panel, passion is an important part of the poetry-slam experience. Participants, he said, are judged on originality or articulation of ideas, delivery, and energy.

“A slam is a very physical experience. There’s more recognition between the poet and his or her work, and more involvement of the audience,” Johnson said.

The competition consisted of 15 young poets performing three-minute pieces that are judged on a 10-point scale.

The top eight winners from the first round moved to the second and delivered a second piece. Winners were chosen from the second-round participants.

The poets presented a wide array of topics and styles in their pieces, including personal reflections, amusing anecdotes, political statements, and treatments of social issues. They were introduced only by their first name and initial.

Sam W. addressed the problem of accepting oneself in his presentation.

“This is my life! Do I not own it? How do I arrive here so afraid of losing without even knowing what losing is?” he said.

Erika S. described an encounter with a romanticized “dream man” while walking down Bascom Hill. In her poem, the “dream man” nearly chased a squirrel up a tree and showed his true self.

“The pitiful little rodent ran squealing and spitting it its crude little way up into the branches/accompanied by the great, stern speech of my one true love/’That’s right, you little bastard!'”

Solomon B., the first-place winner of the competition, made a statement about the government in his second piece.

“What pains me is that the government can’t provide a cop much less the truth/and cops lock truth-seekers in stockades,” he said.

Tackling the social issue of blame in rape trials, Elizabeth, the second-place winner, said, “Tell me, how do you in your minds/the mind of potential American jurors/the mind of the media ? define ‘bringing it upon oneself?’ … How much liquor do I need in me before I am ready? … Should I drink until I puke? Should I drink just enough to fall back laughing, breathless, gurgling, incoherent, asking for something and since it is almost inaudible, I must be asking for this?”

Reed said she plans on organizing more poetry slams in the future.

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