Poet hopefuls filled Student Union 100 equipped with two poems on Wednesday, Sept. 21 in hopes of landing a coveted spot on this year’s SUNY New Paltz Slam Team in the first of the two preliminary poetry slams.
SUNY New Paltz alumna, newly appointed coach and former slam team member Kate Brady introduced featured poet Jon Sands. He read poems from his first full-length poetry collection, “The New Clean” (2011, Write Bloody Publishing).
“It feels like an honor,” Sands said about performing in New Paltz. “All I’ve ever heard are positive things about the students here.”
Sands also hosted a free poetry workshop before the slam. Fifteen writers joined him in discussing poetry and completing free writes.
“Teaching is such a large part of what I do. It feels like the necessary yin to the yang of performing,” Sands said. He wanted the New Paltz poets to “focus on finding new ways to reveal [their] secrets.”
Brady expressed her excitement about the many audience members who had never been to a slam before.
“Slam newcomers can expect to fall in love and get their hearts broken,” Brady said.
Readings ranged from love poems to hate poems to poems about being a stud in the bedroom. Nothing was off limits for the 16 people who slammed for their allotted three minutes.
“Slam is a competition that puts a numerical value to art,” said Brady.
At the beginning of the slam, five judges were chosen to score the poems on a scale from one to 10. Everyone has different notions about what makes a good poet, which makes slam subjective.
“A good poet needs to be able to grab hold of the room,” said Jaimee Halupa, a third-year secondary education major with an English concentration.
Frankie Romano, a third-year creative writing major and poet, was more concerned with the writing than the performance.
“Poets have to be fearless even if they are really afraid inside. Even if they are not a great performer, their writing should speak for them,” she said.
It was noticeable that Wednesday night’s slam was less crowded than past slams.
“I’m surprised at the turn out and disappointed that the room isn’t packed,” said Romano.
Despite the smaller-than-usual turnout, the crowd kept its energy up.
At the end of the night, the six poets with the highest scores will move on to the Grand Slam in November. Brady said this year will be different for the slam team.
“Only five competitors from the grand slam will make it,” she said. “I want a really tight-knit team.”
Brady said the New Paltz community can look forward to the Wade-Lewis Poetry Slam Invitational, named after the late Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis, in March when the team is formed.
Brady constantly reminded the audience that the night was about more than just the scores. Her words echoed as everyone filed out of the room.
“Forget the scores! Give it up for the poets!”