Grand Slam XVII

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Alexandria LaFlair | Staff Writer

November 8 marked the evening of the Grand Poetry Slam, where five contestants were chosen to represent SUNY Oneonta at the eighteenth annual College Union’s Poetry Slam Invitational, (CUPSI). This will be Oneonta’s seventeenth straight year attending the event, which will be held at Temple University in Philadelphia, April 4 through the 7.

But first, what exactly is a poetry slam? A slam is a competitive show where original pieces of poetry are performed by the authors with no help from props or costumes. At this slam, each contestant was given a maximum time of three minutes, with a twenty second grace period, to perform their pieces. There were two rounds, and the order of the poets was randomly picked. Five judges scored each contestant based on the content of the piece and the artist’s performance of it. The audience’s job was to snap for encouragement if the artist got lost along the way, hoot and holler during the performances in agreement, and hiss at the judge’s low scores.

The collective energy and love felt during the entirely of the show was simply amazing. Robb Thibault, Director at Hunt Union and the event’s host, kept the crowd roaring when he brought up each performer and when their scores were awarded. There was never a dull moment, and the room was completely full. The Poetry Slam Association does a wonderful job of keeping the events active on campus throughout the year. Every other Wednesday in the Union you will hear the late night crowds rumble.

The pieces were some of the most moving things I have heard. The emotion you could feel as they spoke was so powerful. Some nearly made you cry, some evoked anger, and some were full of pure happiness. For example, one artist performed a poem about an experience with being in a mental institution for two weeks. The rhythm of her verses were excellent, and the words she used to describe the feelings while being in the facility made it very easy to picture. Another artist spoke on experiences of racism at a young age throughout grade school and coming to college. Many audience members found this particular poem easy to relate to.

The five winners of the Grand Slam were Katie Hebert (as an alternative), Chandler Aldrich, Gabe Membreno, Malack Alharaizeh, Gwyn Quagliana, and the winner was Denny Burhan. Her two poems spoke on what being a transgender woman of color in America is like. Her confidence and beautiful delivery astonished the crowd and judges, making it clear why she was the evening’s winner, but the others were nothing short of remarkable.

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