WU-SLam poets perform in first scored event of the year
From goth culture to police brutality, spousal abuse, anxiety and saving the planet by falling in love, WU-SLam poets immortalized experiences and circumstance in spoken word this past Friday; the lighthearted and the severe, the mundane and the momentous. This event was the first scored slam of the year put on by WU-SLam.
Self-published poet and essayist sophomore Dakotah Jennifer controlled the mic for the night, encouraging the audience to engage with the poets and their word. Snaps, “mmmhmms” and laughter suffused the air as the audience relished in unthinkable rhymes and genius metaphors.
Jennifer read from her most recent publication “FOG,” her debut chapbook. In “Red, White & Blue Chronicles,” she detailed paranoia and fear of sirens from an African American perspective. What heightened the poignancy of her message was the glaring irony within. Red, white and blue are the typical colors of freedom in America, but for some they represent, as Jennifer stated in her poem, “some sort of unbecoming.”
Junior Ibura DeHaan extended the theme of the African American experience, enumerating the nuanced ways in which hair is formative of identity and a cultural marker in her poem, “September.” That and her other two poems, “My Mama Lives in the Sun” and “Ex,” both delivered melodiously, secured DeHaan first place.
Sophomore Elfie Field followed DeHaan with far different subject matter. The sheer bluntness of Field’s take on what to expect when dating a goth girl had the audience jolted in their seats—some even sprinted out into the aisles in delighted shock. Fields has mastered the melodramatic seducer alter ego. Her jarringly abrupt transitions from speaking with the tone of a master seductress through her lines, “Hey there boys, I know what you want, all your deepest and darkest fantasies,” to shouting the lines, “I’m an actual f—cking person” and “I wake up at 6:30 every morning to listen to recordings of Gregorian chanting while meditating in the nude” left the audience bent over in laughter.
Following Fields, another sophomore, Jules, delivered a heart-rending, impassioned narrative of the experience of a person recovering from disordered eating. She covered the spectrum between the absolute nadir of the disorder and recovery. The stark contrast between two raw lines stunned the audience into silence: “My instinct is no, no, do not fill, stay empty, always stay empty, do not fill, do not eat, do not satisfy and I’m. So. Sorry, my love but in my panic, I snapped off each of your fingers, that way you couldn’t tug on the pale half moons the way I so selfishly loved.” This contrast came to fruition in the final lines. “When anorexia’s fingers crawled over my skin, I would bite them off like baby carrots—the kind I can eat recklessly with no abandon because this poor man’s mausoleum has been turned into a temple…”
Love, the idealistic kind that is all-consuming and perfect, was also a common thread throughout the night. Sophomore Erin Barillier had the audience spellbound from the very first line: “I found a way to save the planet—and it starts with this sentence.” Barillier proceeded to list the many ways falling in love could benefit the environment: “And we’ll save water…by showering together. We’ll be in such a rush to get back into bed that we’ll cut the time in half, even with the distraction of me trying to spike your hair with shampoo.” The love Barillier described with a sort of soft lyricism elicited a chorus of “awww” from the audience and left a sense of lightness in the air.
Even after a day of classes, the energy in the room persisted as the poets slammed what they’d put to paper. Among the other 3-minute poems that shaped the evening were those concerning alcoholism and neglect, suicidal thoughts, the feminist struggle in America and the miracle of friendship. There was no single thread that defined the evening—the poets each laid bare a different chamber of their hearts at the mic; their messages echoed off the walls and struck marrow and heartstring.