It’s no surprise that on a campus as socially welcoming and innovative as SUNY New Paltz, there is a slam poetry team. NP Slam is a diverse group of young poets who tackle the art in the most unconventional of ways. On Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25, NP Slam hosted the 8th Annual Wade-Lewis Poetry Slam Invitational.
In attendance were NP Slam’s competitors Urban Lyrics, Oneonta and Wesleyan. The night was held in honor of the late Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis, past head of the Black Studies department at SUNY New Paltz as well as advocate and supporter of the group and its endeavors. While admission was free, any donations made were put towards the Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis Memorial Scholarship Endowment.
The invitational began with members searching for random judges in the audience. To be a judge, the audience member had to be completely unbiased, meaning that they did not know any of the competitors. After five judges were chosen, NP Slam invited two prominent slam poets to the stage. SUNY New Paltz alumnus Megan Falley took the stage the first night, Taylor Steele the night after. Both Falley and Steele read from their own repertoire, reciting poems that spoke of past struggles with body image, sexuality, failed romance and much more.
Falley immediately put her audience at ease with an air of intimacy and humor.
“I’m going to try and singlehandedly take down the Trump and Pence administration with poetry,” she said.
She continued to elicit raucous laughter out of her audience by lamenting that, despite the parents in the audience, she was going to continue reciting her raunchy poetry.
Shortly after, the teams compete. For every round, the teams would send up a different member, each having something very unique to bring to the table. Whether they spoke of emotional torment regarding discrimination by race or gender, struggling with sexuality, the misconceptions behind mental illness or the trauma behind sexual assault, every member spoke words of passion. Because the invitational was to remain a safe zone, there were announcements made encouraging the audience to step outside if anything became too emotionally triggering for them.
The invitational on Friday resulted in Wesleyan taking first place with Urban Lyrics receiving second. Ironically, roles reversed during the second installment Saturday night when Urban Lyrics took first and Wesleyan received second.
Fourth year Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies and sociology double major and active member of the NP Slam Team Raine Nel expresses how enjoyable it was to meet students with similar interests.
“I really enjoyed meeting the teams from other schools (reconnecting with people I met before and didn’t realize were on their respective slam teams!) and getting to know them,” they said. “The Wesleyan and Oneonta teams are full of really, really kind and adorable people.”
Nel also commented on the real significance of the night.
“I really enjoyed getting to remember Dr. Wade-Lewis because even though she passed years ago, she was super wonderful and supportive of the team when she was still with us,” Nel said. “I think it’s great that we still get to honor her.”