This weekend, poets will put their verses and rhythms to the test during the second-largest annual collegiate slam competition in the country, the Wade-Lewis Poetry Slam (WLPS) Invitational.
“The WLPS is in its own way, an event that brings schools together to share in the experience and moment that is spoken word poetry,” Kelvin Then, a second-year physics major and member of New Paltz performance team, Urban Lyrics, said.
The fifth annual competition, which is also created to commemorate Margaret Wade-Lewis, who founded New Paltz’s Black Studies Department, will host teams from universitites including Yale University, Brown University, Wesleyan University, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY New Paltz and Dartmouth College, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Similar to last year, this year’s event will host preliminary and final rounds during the same weekend. The event will feature guest poets Thuli Zuma and Robbie Q. and campus a capella groups will also provide entertainment, Rachel Simons, a fourth-year creative writing major and secretary of the New Paltz Slam Poetry Team, said.
A quality of WLPS that sets it apart from other collegiate slams according to Then is that its “intention is so much greater than the actual competition.”
“Not too often are slams of this caliber and size, with all these amazing schools coming in, dedicated to someone,” Then said. “Usually it’s for the reward, for the light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of the day…we all know we are here to pay respects for this wonderful woman who goes unnoticed on this campus.”
One of four poets on his team performing, Then will be slamming a poem about women and equality, and said he looks forward to hearing all different types of poems, be them political, personal or humorous.
Urban Lyrics took home the trophy at the 2013 invitational, their first time ever slamming competitively. Then said they don’t have a strategy going into this year’s competition, other than enjoying the slamming experience while being in the moment.
Aaron Tremper, a fourth-year English major, was a former member of the New Paltz Slam Team and is currently the team’s assistant coach. He said this season, the team is entirely composed of women, which will create “an interesting dynamic and variety of voices.”
“I hope each audience member leaves with the inspiration to be open communicators and to use their own voices which, in themselves, are just as valuable as those of a performer,” Tremper said.
The slam will be held from Friday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, March 1 at 5 p.m. in Lecture Center 100, with a closing ceremony in the North Lobby of the Lecture Center in the afternoon on Sunday, March 2, according to the event’s Facebook page.