Students crammed into the common area of 200 Church this past Saturday evening to listen to the second poetry slam of the year. WeSLAM worked with Ajúa Campos, the University’s Latinx culture group, to bring the crowd a fantastic night of students’ slam poetry. The show also featured Bostonian guest poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva.
“We’re partnering with Ajúa Campos, Wesleyan’s Latinx cultural group, for this event in an effort to highlight and showcase the important[sic] of Latinx and cross-cultural identities and ethnicities in slam poetry,” a WeSLAM representative wrote in an email to The Argus prior to the event.
Key sponsors of the event included the English department, the American Studies department, and the Center for the Americas, all of whom helped fund the slam.
Saturday’s slam was the second of three preliminary rounds for Wesleyan poets to qualify for the Grand Slam. The students were evaluated with a score of 1 to 10 by several judges, with the top three moving on. At the Grand Slam, the top five poets will become part of Wesleyan’s competitive slam poetry team that will travel to the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational in Chicago later this year.
The night began with a sacrificial poet. This poet wasn’t being judged to qualify for later rounds, but helped to calibrate the judges’ scores. What followed was a series of impassioned fellow students performing poems covering all sorts of topics, such as race, love, and gender identity. Performing poets included Lili Kadets ’17, Clarity Bian ’19, Gagne ’19, Clara Babbott-Ward ’20, Yeti Kang ’20, Mina Khan ’20, Isaac Klimasmith ’20, Ella Miodownik ’20, and Melisa Olgun ’20.
At the midway point, Lozada-Oliva came to the mic and began with a well-known poem of hers, “Bitches.” The comical yet deeply-keen and insightful poem set the tone for her following readings.
After Lozada-Oliva, many of the night’s earlier poets reappeared in the second half with new poems. The show ended with three winners being selected to move on and a fourth being entered into a lottery draw for qualification.
Students expressed how much they enjoyed the night’s poetry.
“I really liked Melissa’s poems, [and] I especially enjoyed her poem ‘Bitches,’” Alaina Scallan ’20 said. “I felt the night really gained momentum. There were some awesome poems towards the end.”
This second slam had a lot to live up to following the success of the year’s first slam. One of this round’s judges, Naomi Glascock ’20, commented on the slam’s success.
“I went to the first slam this year, too, and this one definitely lived up to expectation!” she wrote in an email to The Argus. “I love how supportive the environment at the slams is. Everyone congratulates each other and is just excited to see what’s being performed that night. Judging the slam made me watch from a different perspective since I had to give out points to each poem ultimately. But I love that, even though it technically is a competition, everyone is really just there to share and to listen to some really great poetry.”
Many students were impressed at how all of the slam’s poets performed without fear despite the large crowd.
“I admired the courage of all the poets to get up there and to show parts of themselves to strangers in such a beautiful way,” Amanda Fiorentino ’20 said.
The night also inspired many students to get more involved with poetry in their own lives.
“Hearing all of the amazing poets, I felt inspired to go home and write my own poetry,” Tara Peng ’20 said. “I think WeSLAM is a great way to bring poetry to new audiences.”
Students also enjoyed Lozada-Oliva’s poems.
“It was great to see Melissa Lozada-Oliva perform!” Glascock wrote. “I hadn’t seen any of her work before the slam, so I was so impressed!….She also talked a bit about inserting yourself into spaces that weren’t meant for you before one of her poems, which resonated with me. With art and media, representation is really important, but there are so many people who don’t feel like they can find themselves in the movies, and TV shows, and songs they see. So carving out your own spaces, even where you weren’t originally intended to be, sends a huge ‘screw you’ to anyone excluding people (whether it’s intentional or not) from the media they create.”