What I have learned about slam poetry at U of M is that slam poetry is one of those things everyone goes “ah that is so cool” too, but don’t care to participate in or view. The people that like slam poetry, love it, because it consumes their emotions and creativity. Slammers can’t get enough slamming. They perform and watch others perform. If you don’t slam you don’t care to watch others perform. It isn’t like improv comedy, where everyone goes to see the shows whether they perform improv or not. This is an important lesson to learn because Rackham yesterday was mis-booked. Rackham is a big beautiful auditorium, but it feels daunting when only 20 people show up for the slam leaving the auditorium empty. At least Kai made a great decision forcing everyone to come to the first few rows to make the vast space feel smaller.
The show started with readings from the UM slam poem team, who will compete at CUPSI in a few weeks. I’ve seen and reviewed these poems before at previous slams , but of course, I was entertained watching them a second time. Sorry for any misspelled names and incorrect quotes in this review. Dylan has an awesome voice for reading slam poetry; my favorite lines of hers was “the girls you care enough about to loan to what-if-it were her scenarios.” Lizzie used moon imagery very well in her poem, from marks on a body to something to reach for. My favorite line was ” Manifest love in silence, loving him means I cannot speak.”
Kai’s poems were absolutely phenomenal, I feel like she is ready to get some viral recordings on button poetry. Her first poem creatively used ghosts to symbolize depression, what is wrong with hypocrisy and culture in America, and how these issues have affected herself and her family. I liked Kai’s use of sheet white faces, rituals, exorcism and I liked how I could never tell who Kai was addressing this poem to, whether it was to herself, America, or her parents? I liked the quote “Depression in America is laziness in Asia, and not a disease but a ghost to her father.” Her second poem was also great, I liked the imagery of mechanical humans and her repeated use of three questions.
This was all introduction for the main poet of the night, Roya Marsh, who has the dream job, she travels around reading slam poetry. She is a professional poet featured on frontier poetry and button poetry and has won all these other impressive awards I forgot but you can probably look up. To introduce her, a local poem legend, Ty, read a poem about mint tea that was short but beautiful. My favorite line was ” Mothers will chase, fight, hunt, honey, home to settle and be comfortable.”
Roya’s poems were all extremely passionate. She showed how important it is to memorize your poems because then poems can come from the heart instead of a sheet of paper. She also cusses a lot in her poems she even had a whole poem about certain curse words. Cussing in slam poetry is like a right of passage, only great poets can use cuss and not have everyone in audience flinch. Roya said if you’re going to put a curse word in your poem, it should be the strongest word in the poem, otherwise, don’t use it.
Roya read so many poems. that I can’t comment on all of them, but I will say what stood out to me and if you like what you hear, check out her book or check her out online. Most of Roya’s poem were about being gay, a woman, and being black. My favorite poem was about how uninvited she feels in American churches and how that has empowered her sexuality and body. She had a poem about the mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando where she recited every single victim’s name. She had a hilarious line about Donald Trump that had me laughing for 5 minutes, but is too profane for me to write about. Her imagery throughout her performance was so strong, my favorite usage was about her pulse. She had a whole verse about acheivements of famous historical black women that rhymed. My three favorite lines of the night: “silence is a cloak draped over a body of lies” , ” pessimism is trying to kill myself, optimism is trying to live in spite of that” , “Black joy knows prosperity in the face of white supremacy.”