WU-SLam showcases written poetry in ‘Genesis’ zine

| Senior Cadenza Editor

WU-SLam, Wash. U.’s slam poetry club, released an online zine last month. Though the foray into written poetry isn’t unique in the club’s history, 2021 marks the club’s first zine in the last decade. The reason? The coronavirus pandemic.

“I was trying to consider a way that we could have our poets incorporate more of their poetry in WU-SLam,” said club president junior Kaylaun Bonni, “and so the idea of an online zine just kinda came to mind.”

Zine cover art by Chrys Flowers

The zine’s cover.

Junior Kayla Williams, the head of the zine committee, agreed. “We’re poets, but because we’re mostly involved with spoken word, we’re not always—our written poetry is not always featured or focused on all the time,” they said. Once in-person poetry slams were shut down, it was the perfect time for a zine. 

The zine doesn’t mean there will be no slams this year—WU-SLam hosted a Zoom slam in November, and they plan to host another on March 12. 

Williams said that page poems like those featured in the zine and slam poems are “two different art forms. The way you’re representing it, you have to focus on different aspects for it to be artistic.”

While slams, the club’s usual fare, focuses more on performance, the poems published in the zine have to look good on a page. 

“The differences can be defined by the difference between speaking or telling a story versus if you write it down on a page, and the conventions that go into those two different things,” Williams explained. “Like, how do I make telling that story reach my reader, and how will they pick up on that emotion interacting with it that way versus on the page? You’re thinking about how to do that differently with a written voice.”

Bonni described her poem in the zine as a page poem. For her, that means it’s a little more abstract than one she would perform at a slam. “When I write poems, I try to make it so that they’re abstract enough so that it’s not all about me or the speaker, so that the reader can really relate to what I’m saying,” she said. “Whereas the slam poetry, that’s really my time to express how I’m feeling.”

Williams, who has two poems in the zine, said that they would only read one aloud. “It kinda sounds pretty to the ear maybe,” they said, “so I would speak it out loud.”

But they, too, see page poems as different from a slam poem. You read a page poem; you perform a slam poem. 

“When I perform my poetry onstage, it’s like it’s coming to life a little bit and it gets to be outside of me,” they said.

“Sometimes I have poems where I don’t know how I can perform this onstage and have anybody really relate to it, besides just telling them a story or whatever,” Williams said. “Or maybe, I wrote this thing, and it could resonate with somebody out there onstage, but I don’t know how it would do that without becoming a whole different poem. And so having the zine gives those poems, in my mind, a second life.”

That new life is the theme of WU-SLam’s zine: Genesis. 

A genesis is the origin of something, but Bonni and Williams agreed that even if the club doesn’t produce another zine next year, the theme still stands. Genesis doesn’t have to be only a beginning, they said, it can be a way to honor their roots. 

When Bonni and Williams joined WU-SLam their freshman year, the club was down to only four members. The 13 people in their cohort revitalized the club and set it on the track to where it is now.

“Since then, people have set their roots in at WU-SLam … And we wanted to pay homage to that, the origins of that,” Williams said. “…That’s the Genesis.”

Still, they hope the zine will not be a one-time thing. “Hopefully next year, the new cohort we just got will continue with a zine,” Bonni said. 

Even if that doesn’t happen, though, they are happy with the zine.

“Sometimes we talked about it like it could be recurring, but at the end of the day, we were making it for ourselves first,” Williams said. 

Because the zine is primarily for the club members, only WU-SLam members’ poems are featured. But at the end of the day, they wanted to make it accessible to everyone. 

“Once we had the poems, it was about like how do we make this a zine, something that you want to flip through and that seems enticing, and not just a book of all of our poems,” Williams explained. They accomplished that with the help of their friend Chrys Flowers, a non-Wash. U. student with an interest in graphic design. Flowers produced art for the zine, including the front cover. 

The art, though, doesn’t take the focus away from the poetry at the heart of it all. “We’re really excited about people being able to see the zine so they get a sense of who we are, and to express our art,” Williams said. “That’s always exciting.”

WU-SLam’s zine is available for online reading here or on their Instagram page

Editor’s note: Senior cadenza editor Sabrina Spence and copy chief JJ Coley, who are members of WU-SLam, were not involved with the production of this article.

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