Poetry enthusiasts braved severe thunderstorms for the English department’s annual Big Prize Poetry Slam on Friday evening. Held in the atrium of the PAHB, the event started 10 minutes late to accommodate those coming in bad weather.
As students waited for the performances to begin, they lined up to enjoy the food offerings. A generous spread of food was set out that included fruit salad, chicken skewers and crab cakes.
Andy Clark, a freshman biological sciences major, attended the event because of her interest in poetry and performing arts, even writing her own poetry.
“I find that spoken word poetry is so fulfilling because people are very passionate about what they’re saying,” she said. “It’s kind of like listening to music. It’s wonderful.”
Although she enjoyed the event, Clark felt that it wasn’t well advertised to students with majors outside of the humanities. She attended other homecoming events that didn’t mention the poetry slam.
“There were fliers on campus, but English majors get all these emails about events like this and I feel like the demographic is kind of skewed. Spoken word poetry or poetry slams are often about social justice and it’s really hard to have social justice if you’re not speaking to everyone,” Clark added.
Even so, eight students participated, showcasing a wide variety of majors. They covered topics ranging from nerd culture to race issues. The order of performances was selected at random by the emcee, who selected names from a bag.
After each performance, a panel of four judges, each one an instructor in the English department, rated the poem. During each reading, the audience watched in rapt attention and clapped excitedly at the end.
After all the poets performed, there was a brief intermission while the judges compared scores. There was a three-way tie for second place. Each of the contenders re-read the first minute of their poem and the audience voted on their favorite by cheering.
Kate Azu, a junior political science major, took home the grand prize, even though she was sick. Her poem, “Pedals on Hold,” was about searching for love. Throughout the piece, Azu repeated the line, “Where are you sweet love?”
Azu didn’t tally the scores as the evening went on, so her win came as a surprise.
“I’m still sick,” she said after the win, “but I feel good.”
At the end of the evening, the emcee, UMBC alumnus Dan Roeder, left the crowd with encouraging parting words.
“Be Maryland, be UMBC, be proud.”