Poetry has long been a medium that puts words to the indescribable. It can be used to explore the feelings that exist amorphously, from the most complete pains to immense elation. It draws together seemingly unrelated pieces of life and brings light to ideas that we may otherwise glaze over in our striving for a normal life. Further still, slam poetry combines this style of writing with a moving, lyrical flow that resonates with a wider audience, adding in a most earnest emotion to the already poignant stanzas.
The U of M Slam Poetry Competition group and Roya Marsh are coming together to perform their work Wednesday, April 3rd at Rackham Auditorium. Come snatch a seat at 7 pm and prepare yourself to gain new perspectives on social justice issues that plague our existence. Admission is free for students and faculty, and staff!
As this was my first poetry slam, I didn’t know what to expect. I was really excited to get some inspiration for my own poetry reading coming up next week, and to see the slam’s featured poet: Kevin Kantor. I definitely wasn’t disappointed! (Note: I’m sorry for any misspellings that might occur, as I couldn’t find a program!)
First, there was an open mic. The open mic wasn’t a part of the slam competition, so it was really relaxed. First, Meg read a piece to her mom for her birthday, which was sweet all on its own. She used phrases like, “You made staying at home a Ph. D. degree” and “My rose of a mother, you taught me to see.”
Marlin was next, and he surprised me a couple lines into his poem when he slipped into a very Eminem-esque rhythm. Marlin had beautifully-written phrases such as: “We know that the skyline would be dark without us” and “We are the gravity that makes the snow stick.” Amazing.
After Marlin was Alyssa, who later ended up winning third place in the poetry slam! She had an awesome stage persona, and one of my favorite quotes from her piece was, “If you force me to buy my mean plan, you’re not a salesman, you’re a politician.”
The entire open mic was really thought-provoking, and it was a great introduction for Kevin Kantor. He came onstage next, and he was immediately winning the audience over with his easy jokes and unique personality. He flew all the way from Florida. He read a few poems from his chapbook (which I bought, and you can look at it here). He had countless iridescent quotes, and here are some of my favorites:
“You taught me how to look at a seed and see a flower.”
“I am not a hopeless romantic. I am a poet, and poets aren’t hopeless anythings.”
“12.) I’m sorry I’ve not yet forgotten how to find you beautiful. 13.) I’m trying.”
After Kantor, it was time for the poetry slam to start. Judges were established and Alyssa went first. Her poem was a powerful reflection on modern feminism. One of the lines in her poem was: “I am not for decoration. I have purpose.” That, as you can imagine, won her a lot of appreciative snaps.
Sharon went next, and her poem was inspired by the movie, Inside Out. It was wonderfully written, and very creative. Eilene was after Sharon, and her poem about racism in America won first place!
Chris won second place with his poem about perseverance. “I’m the diamond who mined itself,” was one of his most memorable lines.
The last poet was Meg, who also wrote about gender equality. “Women are half the nation,” she observed, and “me and my parts deserve more.” Snaps to that.
The Grand Slam will take place on January 9th. I definitely recommend checking it out!
With an almost full lower level at the Power Center for the Performing Arts, student performance groups across Michigan pulled together October 18 for G-Fest, a 2-hour extravaganza of singing, dancing, comedy, slam poetry, percussion and glow-stick dancing. Each act brought something fresh and new to the 5th Annual G-Fest. Alumni G-Men from the inaugural show had the honors of opening this one. Not only were the acts solidly executed, but the ever quirky, comical G-Men introducing them kept the show’s momentum running strong throughout the entire program. Personal favorite included when two G-Men made dubstep with their mouths, including dubbing the beats to Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Likes it Hot” and Ginuwine’s “Pony.” I think this was when the crowd cheered the loudest the whole time, although each group received a respectable amount of loud, rambunctious applause, and for good reason.
I found myself feeling like I was an extra cast member in Pitch Perfect when the G-Men and Harmonettes sang in harmony and pitch together. The G-Men pulled off a catchy Spanish number to open the show, followed by a mash-up of Maroon 5’s “Harder to Breathe” and Adele’s “Skyfall.” Pure ear candy. In the second part of the show, the self-proclaimed always classy, sometimes sassy Harmonettes brought their girl power with Little Mix’s “Wings,” my favorite number from their set. To quote the movie, both groups were “aca-awesome.”
Asante, the only solo act on the bill, sang two original compositions at the piano. He described the process of creating his own music by visualizing different keys as different colors and putting it all together. His two pieces complemented each other perfectly well, and had the venue feeling like a small intimate jazz club. As a senior in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, he was one of my favorite acts for his ability to silence and mesmerize the crowd with his smooth voices and even smoother piano playing. He’s got showmanship down, looking and sounding mighty classy. I loved every minute of it.
The first dance group, Michigan Raas Team, performed to traditional Indian music wearing traditional Indian costumes. Their fluid movements had me wanting to get up and dance too, if I knew how to dance like that. G-Fest ended with Photonix, a group that dances with glow sticks to create visual art with trippy trance music in the background. It takes a whole lot of talent to wave glow sticks up and down to create something magical, and Photonix’s did just that in this out-of-this-world finale.
Before intermission, Groove beat their trashcans and quad drums made of plastic bins to perform several numbers of carefully crafted percussion numbers. The intensity and speed at which these performers can go is remarkable, and I can only imagine how much time and practice they endure to get it just right. These guys nailed it, and the best part is all their instruments are random, common items one wouldn’t expect to find in a formal show. Groove’s ingenuity, coupled with their urban allure, made for a stylistic success to round out the first half.
Not only did talent lie in the musicality of performances, but in comics and poets, too. The first half featured six ComCo. members, campus’s oldest improv comedy group, playing various games with audience participation. They pulled off one of comedy’s greatest exercises, telling a story with someone else’s hands behind them guiding the action. Another game had the game master control the flow of dialogue, interrupting a “mother/daughter” pair whenever he didn’t like what they were saying and making them redo the line in a different way. The best part about the players was the sheer improvisation–these guys can think fast on their feet and that makes it all the more enjoyable and entertaining. One of the highlights of the night for me was being able to laugh at the absurdity of the situations the players acted out.
Four members of the Slam Poetry Club read their poems on stage, giving the audience chills with their themes of growing up, being there for someone in tough times and a poem chronicling Adam and Eve’s experience in couple’s therapy. Each poet slammed really well, slowing and quickening their voices at the appropriate times and really speaking from the heart. It takes a lot of guts to speak like that in front of such a large audience, and these kids nailed it.
I couldn’t have asked for a better Friday night listening to and seeing all the great talent this campus has to offer. Each group shined, and it made me even prouder to be a Michigan Wolverine. Even though G-Fest was just a sampling of the many performance groups on campus, it accomplished its goal of entertaining attendees. Bravo, everyone, for your amazing performances.