CUPSI Cultivates Creative Community


 The SUNY New Paltz Slam Team packed their bags full of poetry and traveled to Barnard College in New York City for the largest collegiate slam in the country — the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI).

First held in 2001 with seven participating slam teams, this year, CUPSI hosted 58 teams from across the country from April 3 to 6. Competing teams included University of California–Berkeley, Brown University and Vassar College.

Following the finals on April 6, New York University was named the 2013 winner, making it their second consecutive CUPSI championship.

Although all six members of the SUNY New Paltz Team attended the Invitational, only five performed in the competition. The team competed during the first two days of the invitational — or the preliminary rounds — but did not make it to the semi-finals during the last two days.

During the invitational, each team consisted of a minimum of four and a maximum of five members. In a bout, four poets performed individually, and then once as a team. A team piece consisted of at least two different poets, but no more than four. New Paltz came in fourth in each bout they performed in.

Team President Breanna Metcalf-Oshinsky, a third-year public relations and creative writing double major, was not disappointed with how the team performed, but was slightly upset by when the team was chosen to perform.

“Each team is randomly chosen,” Metcalf-Oshinsky said. “There are five random judges, and we were picked to go first for our two bouts. It’s hard to go first. As the night went on, people would get more excited about the poems. I wish we could have performed at a different time, but we performed well. We laid our hearts on the stage.”

Metcalf-Oshinsky said New Paltz performed “different” kinds of poems than the other schools.

For example, team member and third-year art education major Brittany Patane performed a piece called “Application for Second Best” about being second best at certain jobs and applying for those positions.

Each starting member of the team got to perform a solo piece in the two days New Paltz competed.

“The team got to present all the hard work we had done over the past four months in front of a large group of new faces who shared the same interest,” team member and third-year English major Christine Richin said.  “Although we did not make it to the semi-finals stage, we gained a lot of respect from people in our community and were recognized as a school with great craft and talent. It was arguably the best four days of our entire season.”

The slam team started preparing for the event before winter break, practicing on Sundays — sometimes for 10 hours. As CUPSI got closer, they attended weekend poetry retreats at coach Jared Singer’s Brooklyn apartment.

“Many of us would also find time to write together during our free time if possible,” Richin said.

The New Paltz Slam Team might not have made it to the semi-finals, but they did value their experience at CUPSI.

“We attended CUPSI as a team and left as a family,” Richin said. “It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to be so closely connected with such an amazing community.”