Hip-hop artist and MC Mos Def hosted a poetry slam on the Queens campus on April 26.
The slam, a Spring Week event coordinated by the Food 4 Thought poetry club, was a competition between poets from St. John’s and Hofstra University. The St. John’s team won after three rounds of competition.
Mos Def, the original host of HBO’s “Def Poetry,” took the Marillac Auditorium stage to a standing ovation from the sold out audience.
“It’s not fair to do that to my ego,” Mos Def told the cheering throng of students.
“It’s very good to be here with you. I’m very honored and pleased to be invited,” Mos Def told the crowd.
Mos Def gave a brief account of Def Poetry’s beginnings in a Brooklyn café.
“In the ‘90s, that was where the great poets hung out. We were just doing it, doing open mics,” he told the crowd. “It’s so nice after years of working with poets to see it’s still alive. I never would have imagined the movement would take off and be able to fill esteemed halls with young people like this.”
The poetry club was founded in spring 2010. Many of the members were participating in their first poetry slam.
“I feel like poetry is another outlet to show who I really am,” said Aaron Poon, a junior mass communications major who competed in his first slam. “It’s about losing all inhibitions. It’s your work and there are so many people there to hear words that you wrote.”
Poon said the Food 4 Thought club was surprised by the size of the crowd. “Mos Def brought in the people,” he said. “But my teammates made people want to say, listen and support.”
The first round was not judged, and the poets introduced themselves and recited short poems.
In the second and third rounds, members of each team took turns delivering their best poems. The poets were judged on a scale of 1-10 on several criteria. Judges based the scores on the poets’ effectiveness, or how well they engaged the audience, delivery and confidence, clarity and creativity.
Poon believes the success of the slam will help the club gain notoriety on campus. “It’s been slowly climbing,” he said. “By the time I graduate I think we’re going to have more people who want to come and explore and slam.”
According to Poon, the Food 4 Thought team’s success hinged on sharing one another’s energy. “Whenever one of us would finish and get back in line, it was ‘I’ve got to match my brother or my sister,'” he said. “It was a real good energy we brought to each other.”
Poon said the St. John’s team was able to come out on top as a result of practice and preparation, but also because of the passion the team brought to their poetry.
“There’s one thing that’s important to remember,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’s always someone out there who wants to hear your story.”