The poetry slam on Oct. 10 wasn’t just a slam, it was a smash. The event, run by the organization Food For Thought, took place in the curtained off corner of DAC Coffeehouse where the lights were low, couches were arranged in rows and the mic stood center stage.
The event emcee, Food for Thought President Tamara Garcia, started the slam off with a warm welcome. She reminded attendees that being “behind the curtains” meant we were sitting in a safe space, a gathering place for poet performers and supporters, where you could speak your mind but no “intolerance,” “-isms” or “-ias” were welcome.
What ensued was inspirational. St. John’s students of all class years shared their work and recited poems rich with feeling that broached deep subject matters such as race-based violence, love, anxiety, beauty, alcoholism and boredom.
The first 10 performers of the night were competing for one of eight semifinalist spots and a chance to advance to the finals. The panel of four judges consisted of two St. John’s English professors, a St. John’s staff member and a student randomly picked from the audience. Poets and audience members alike snapped in approval during performances as a gesture of support, lessening competition or intensity and marking it as a peaceful gathering. The on-hand DJ and poet played tunes in between performances, adding to the fun of the night.
Following the competition portion of The Slam, the open-mic began. Previous performers, audience members and new poets alike took to the stage and shared their work. More snaps of approval echoed through the room.
Freshman Jackson Boutin was among the poets who shared his art during the open mic. His poem, titled “Boredom,” the first poem that he has read out loud to others, was one he wrote in a moment of boredom. “I was super nervous at first but it felt really good to perform. I really felt the vibe in the room and I liked how supportive everybody was. I’m hyped to perform next week,” Boutin said.
This feeling of excitement and positivity extended beyond the student performers. Professor Laila Shikaki, a current adjunct professor of English and Ph.D. student of English who judged the competition portion of The Slam, had only praise to say for how the event went. “I want to say I was mind blown, but the word isn’t poetic enough… I was amazed,” Shikaki said.
To Shikaki, the students’ ability to memorize their poems alone was greatly impressive. The environment in the room, provided a platform for poets, especially people of color, to express themselves. It was one of the most amazing aspects of the event. The Slam offered a space for creative minds to share their innermost thoughts.
For senior Obono Mba-Madja, Monday’s poetry slam wasn’t her first time competing or sharing during the open-mic. When asked about The Slam, Mba-Madja talked about the environment of DAC Coffeehouse, referencing a scene from the movie, “Extremely Goofy,” to describe the ambiance.
Another poet performer commented from the side, “I peed my pants up there.”