Last Friday night, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. hosted its 15th annual poetry slam, titled “Occupy Your Mind.” Inspired by the birth of the Occupy movement last year, the slam consisted of three rounds in which competing poets were to use the round’s topic to speak their minds. Contestants were scored by a panel of five judges, including one randomly chosen from the crowd. Each round had a three-minute time limit, and approximately half the contestants were eliminated each time.
The poets included two RPI students, both of whom performed under pseudonyms: Sunil “Emissary” Kunnakkat ’14, and James “The Spiromancer” McEntee ’12. The other contestants—Anny Miner, Mary Anne Rojas, Vanessa Perillo, Michael LoSchiavo, Christopher Bax, Chelsea Coreen, and Eian Kantor—were members of an Oneonta poetry team.
Round one’s theme was “The 99 Percent.” Contestants slammed about the lives and feelings of the protesters and those not lumped into the so-called “one percent.” Round two was themed around “More Power, More Problems,” and presented more of the side of the one percent. Round two also saw the elimination of Emissary, The Spiromancer, LoSchiavo, and Kantor. Round three, the final round, was titled “My 82 Cents,” and allowed the remaining three poets, Rojas, Perillo, and Miner, to slam about anything they wanted. This was the first time that the final round was all women.
Between these rounds were two open mic sessions, in which several crowd members and even a few of the judges took the stage to perform poems of their own, two of which were in Spanish. These, I felt, were as good as poems recited by the actual contestants, all of which were excellent. If I had been one of the judges, I would have had a seriously difficult time deciding between the nine poets, though personally I think I liked Coreen the best. One thing I noticed about the contestants, and most of the open mic poets as well, was that none of them used a mic. They were all loud enough to be heard from the back, though one audience member kept asking everyone if they needed a mic, somewhat jokingly. I also noticed that audience members, whenever they heard a line or section of a poem that they particularly liked, would raise their hands and snap their fingers in support. Never having attended a slam before, this confused me at first, but it makes sense as opposed to, say, clapping noisily.
After the judges finished scoring the final three contestants (all within one point of each other, it turned out), Miner was declared the winner. Her prize? A Livescribe Echo “smartpen.” The smartpen records everything the user writes and hears, making it quite the useful tool for a slam poet. Placing second and third respectively were Perillo and Rojas.
All in all, the slam was quite the enjoyable event. The poems and performances were witty, hilarious, moving, and inspiring. I’m certainly glad I went; I definitely plan on attending next year, and urge you to do the same.