A poetry slam: poetry blended with performance, bringing words to life, and letting them engulf and surround the audience listening as well as letting them feel the story.
“It can be a little bit like rap depending on the person’s performance style or spoken word,” Kat Finney, who was the poetry month events coordinator and is the acquisitions and collection development librarian for Central Oregon Community College, stated about the style of poetry slam performance.
The Central Oregon Community College Poetry Slam began with Jason Graham, who performed a piece that contained a theme extending from the phrase “Earth to us, Dust to earth.” He laid out the foundation of a well-orchestrated slam performance that involved slowly and gradually working up to a movement during which his words started tumbling over one another with his own rhythm.
Graham, widely known by the name MOsley WOtta, has a long background in the arts, including painting and poetry.
“From pretty early on, [I was] interested in doodles and wordplay. You know all the stuff that happens in the margins of your paper when you’re daydreaming in class,” he explained.
“I’m challenging myself to be involved with the community beyond just being on a stage. Also going back to sort of those formative years like working in schools or doing workshops is really rewarding to see other people really wake up and get that spark,” said Graham.
As well as having Graham perform, featured artist Roxy Allen performed and judged the poetry slam competition Friday, April 13. Allen performed several of her pieces to the audience which included intimate subjects about her life, family, and issues in the world like consent and rape.
Allen’s words made the audience react in several ways through, laughter, applauding and they also offered frequent nods of appreciation toward Allen for sharing such intimate moments, as well as painting pictures in the audience’s heads through her words and movement.
After the featured artists performed, the stage became open for the audience. Graham tried to make the audience more comfortable with sharing their thoughts and words by mentioning that the space to perform was an open space to express vulnerability and honesty.
The guidelines for the slam were simple: three minutes of original material and at least six people needed to participate in order for a competition to be held for prizes of Visa gift cards.
Over six people from the audience ended up participating. The performances ranged from poems that were written at the workshop from the previous day, intimate and comical personal stories, recited Shakespeare pieces, poems based off of one word or a theme, memorized poems, and performances that were made up on the spot.
The first performer, Prairie Emrich, a COCC alumni, performed a moving piece about love.
“It’s been something that I’ve been doing since I was old enough to write. I used to write to alleviate boredom, to keep myself busy, and provide comfort when I didn’t feel good. It was a good outlet for emotions,” Emrich said.
Another performer that shared her work was Victoria Garrett, sophomore at COCC. In her performance, she read her work twice, once as a performance and again to explain what each phrase meant.
“It’s all over the place,” Garrett said. “I can hear a word, and then write a poem about it.”
As part of national poetry month, Finney worked together with Graham to put together a poetry slam workshop on April 12 and a poetry slam performance on April 13 in the Multicultural Center. The participants and the audience came from all age categories.
In the Barber Library, there are several interactive activities set up for the month, including a magnetic poetry board, poetry tree, and “poem in pockets”.
On April 28, Elizabeth Woody, Oregon Poet Laureate, will be hosting a poetry workshop and a poetry reading and talk from 6-8:30 p.m..
By Katya Agatucci | The Broadside