On Friday evening, poets, lovers of poetry and friends gathered in the atrium of the Performing Arts and Humanities Building to listen to nine poets in the campus community share their work. The fifth annual Big Prize Poetry Slam helped kick off Homecoming festivities which continue through October 14. The event is hosted by the English Department, the Homecoming Committee and Bartleby, the UMBC creative arts journal.
Sally Shivnan, Associate Director of the Writing and Rhetoric Division of the English Department, believes that the poetry slam is special because it brings different people together to celebrate the creative community.
Shivnan says, “It’s a perfect storm of students, alumni, faculty, fans, all supporting each other, caring about poetry, recognizing that this art form matters and that these poets sharing their work really matter[s].”
The poetry slam is incredibly festive, but it is also competitive. The organization committee receives many entries. The committee evaluates all of the auditions and selects eight to nine poets to compete at the event.
“What makes this particular poetry slam special, is its competitive but very supportive spirit,” says Shivnan. “Our poets come from across all majors, and their poetry spans a great spectrum of interests and forms. We get heart-breaking, politically powerful slam poetry; we get soaring, beautiful lyric poetry.”
Dan Rodaire, the poetry slam emcee, began the night by introducing the five judges. The judges determine the final scores of each competing poet and decide the winners of the event. He then randomly selected a name from a hat. Tess Mcrae, a freshman English major, was the first competitor to share her work.
Poems conveyed personal stories, glimpses of beauty and specific emotions shared through spoken words. Charles Griffin took home the third place prize that night.
Calista Ogburn, a freshman public health major, won second place.
“During my years in high school, I went through traumatic experience[s] and poetry was my way of coping,” said Ogburn.
Ogburn shared a story about her best friend and how the two helped each other realize the beauty in life with or without the ability to hear. She used sign language throughout her poem.
Amber C. Wheeler, a sophomore English major, took home the first place prize of $200.
“Poetry is the only way I know how to speak. It is my tongue,” Wheeler said. “Without a platform, you don’t know how high you can go. Without the pressure of an audience you don’t know what you’re capable of.”