I like poetry. This is a contrast to a lot of other students at RPI; when heckling for Selections for Statler & Waldorf, I’d often get the response, “But I don’t ‘get’ poetry.” This annoys me, because poetry isn’t something you have to beat a meaning out of. Instead, it can simply be the way something sounds that makes you happy, and that’s what was displayed at Friday night’s poetry slam.
The spoken word contest, held by Lambda Upsilon Lambda, boasted a full Academy Hall auditorium. RPI’s 13th Annual Poetry Slam, entitled “7 Elite Virtues,” had almost the same rules as last year; there were three rounds with five judges who rated contestants on a 10.0 scale. However, there was a twist to the judging: the audience was allowed to influence the outcome of the contest by voting for their favorite poet from each round via text messaging, with the more popular competitor getting a bonus (+10 points for the most popular, +9 points for the second most popular, etc.). This was a welcome spin, making the event far more engaging.
The great thing about the slam (and writing in general) was that everyone had a unique take on each category. The first round, themed “Your Elite Ambition,” gave way to a variety of interpretations, some of which included being like one’s mother (Shreel Joshi ’12), living life to its fullest and transcending death (Sean Gallagher), and going beyond the meaning of being a hero (Illiptical, the Wizard of Mars). Out of eight poets who competed, only five moved to the next round, with RPI’s own Joshi and defending slam-champion Gallagher being the crowd favorites at one and two, respectively.
The second round, entitled “13 Nights of Loving,” was filled with even more passionate pieces. The audience favorite from this round was Shara Bender, whose poem took the perspective of a female with a frosted heart. Her unique feminine voice (as she was only one of two females in the entire competition) captivated everyone and the judges with strong rhetoric that received multiple 10s. Joshi and Gallagher were second and third among the crowd, with Joshi delivering another heavy poem highlighting a poor kid and Gallagher performing another humor-ridden piece, this time about breaking up with your girlfriend (“when she knocks on the bathroom door/ while you pee to ask what are you doing/ break up with her”). Ultimately, the crowd favorites moved on to the final round.
Round three, themed “3 Minutes to Make Us Laugh,” had the crowd cracking up almost every line. Though Bender took a different approach (she warned the audience before her piece that it would be “not funny”) and recited a poem more about irony, it was not too well received by the audience. It was geared toward the serious side of things, containing images of sex and the moon, something that seemed to be a recurring theme in her poetry.
Bender’s performance opened the door for Shreel, who delivered a light-hearted poem on “different flavors of hoochies.” However, the final poem of the night was the definite favorite and had everyone roaring with laughter—Gallagher gave a very RPI-relatable piece about nerd love (“I want to take my ponytail and connect it to your ponytail,” was just one comical line). In the end, Gallagher took the prize—an e-book reader—and successfully defended his title.
“I actually haven’t competed in a slam since last year’s competition, so I sure was nervous up there,” Gallagher commented after the slam.
“Making it that far in the competition was pretty surprising because there were a lot of great poets out there,” remarked Joshi, as this was his first slam competition. “The LUL brothers did a great job, especially with the texting poll really getting the voice of the audience; that helped me a lot in the competition, as most of the crowd were RPI students.”
Everyone (including myself) would agree with Joshi; LUL put on another great spoken word competition. For those who didn’t go this year, I strongly encourage you to go the next; if you’re tired of “old-school” poems, the modern style of slam just might be the thing for you.