The Slam Team’s annual Grand Slam competition proved to be a hit.
Featuring Jared Singer, a professional poet from New York City, a harshly lit Student Union 100 was filled with eight poets vying for five spots on the team that will advance to national competitions in the spring.
Poets stepped up to the plate one by one, slamming their way into the judges’ — five randomly selected audience members with no personal bias toward any of the competitors — good books. After two rounds of slamming, the scores, ranging from one to 10, were added together after the lowest and highest were dropped. The five poets with the highest scores made the team.
Among the competitors was Aaron Tremper, a third-year English major who had always struck out when batting in other Grand Slams, but this year he hoped there would be a different outcome.
“I wasn’t that strong of a writer, but last year, I worked with the team and immersed myself in slam poetry culture, and it really helped,” Tremper said. “When you’re up there, you just hope your performance doesn’t seem to last long for the audience.”
Tremper said he has always tried to write poems that appeal to a greater audience as opposed to poems based on his personal experiences. Whether it be queer or feminist issues, he has taken to slamming about social injustices that people in the audience can relate to.
As Brittany Patane, a first-time slammer and third-year art education major, addressed a sexist Dr. Pepper commercial in the first round, snaps from the audience resonated through the room at the height of her performance.
“I’ve never been good at public speaking, but when I get up there, nothing else matters but the poem and I feel like that’s how it should be,” Patane said. “I’m nervous. This is the first time I’m trying out, and a lot of people have tried out before so I’m kind of the underdog. Then again, I made it to the Grand Slam so I must be doing something right.”
Ben Golden, slam team co-president and fourth-year radio and production major, used humor and self-deprecation as selling points for his first-round poem. He said those are his commonly used tactics.
“My style is to be a little more humanist, just about personal experience and personal issues,” Golden said. “I try to swing toward comedy whenever possible, but some of my new pieces have taken a more serious direction.”
Golden said he prepared for the competition by traveling down to the city and attending slams, where he met and interacted with new artists who share a common interest.
The winners of the Grand Slam were Christine Richin, Brittany Patane, Aaron Tremper, “Bre M-o” and James Warren.
Patane said the impact on the audience is what really counts.
“I was inspired to become involved in slam poetry, and if you could inspire at least one person in the audience with your poem, it was worth it,” she said.