New Experiences and Slam Poetry

I realize that I have forgotten to share a very unique and cool experience. It happened in November, but it’s okay, I have reached the point of finishing the draft now. Anyway in November (yes, apparently November was a while ago now), two of my friends and I decided to venture into New York to hear slam poetry. I experimented a little with slam this summer and heard it performed, but I had never been to an actual slam competition. So at 7:30 on a Friday night we took a train to the city, found our way all the way downtown to third street and waited outside the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for an hour.

I honestly had no idea what to expect, but what I got was very unique. While we were waiting, we struck up a conversation with the couple waiting in line behind us. In between analyzing the saga of the pizza delivery guy trying to make a delivery at the apartment building next door, we asked them how they came to be at the Nuyorican. Neither of them was affiliated with writing or literature (other than the occasional pleasure read), least of all slam poetry. But one of them had been there before, loved it and so decided to return. It was interesting to see the draw of slam poetry for all kinds of different people. There was a wide variety waiting on line and the diversity of the crowd only became clearer once we got inside. Poet and Nuyorican employee, Mahogany Browne (@mobrowne) opened with a casual monologue. She started off by surveying the room to find out where people were from. It was like she was calling attendance. First, she asked about the boroughs, then California. By the end I think we had covered nearly every state and several countries (including Iran, England, Jamaica and Puerto Rico). When the New Jersians announced their presence, Mahogany said, “Oh please, New Jersey is a borough who are you kidding.” Then they turned all the lights off, concealing the slightly cliché, but nevertheless atmospheric exposed brick walls, and everyone danced around and sang a song, which I was definitely supposed to know the words to and definitely did not. I realize that this sounds very strange, and it was, but it was really fun.

The first poet we heard was Shira E. Her work was humorous; mostly poignant anecdotes about life, her relationships and conversations she has had. She read with clarity and with a very distinct personality. We then heard from three slam poets. Interestingly, the first two poets both performed poems with candy metaphors. I am not kidding. If you think of the name of a candy it was in these two poems. It was a bit unfortunate for the second performer, because although his poem was very interesting, it could not seem as original given that the first performer presented something nearly identical. It was cool to see the difference in the uses of the metaphors however. The common aspect of all of the poems was that they were all very personal, very passionate and had a purpose. They were communicating something, it seemed with the intent to evoke change, or an emotion. And in true slam fashion, the audience chimed in throughout.

It was new, unique and every single person there was just having so much fun. It was around poetry, it was about social change, it was about passion. The only requirement of being there was to be passionate about something and to have an appreciation for performance. If you ever have the chance, go to a poetry cafe, or a slam competition, a poetry reading, anything. Anywhere that artists are presenting their work is bound to inspire thought and passion. Enjoy it.

Read on,
Kelsey

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