Maggie McCann, Contributing Writer |
On Wednesday, October 17 in Hunt Union’s Waterfront room, Oneonta’s renowned Poetry Slam Association hosted their Big O’ Poetry slam number 162, the fourth slam of this year, and their eighteenth season of competition. Robb Thibault, Hunt College Union Director and Poetry Slam Association advisor, hosted the slam opening with a high energy introduction listing some rules and advising the audience of the “dance between audience and poet” wherein the poet “feeds off the energy” of the audience. The night’s opener was Jillian Moczara, a long-time member of the Poetry Slam Association and the club’s current president. Jillian’s poem touched on themes including self-image and relationships as expressed in the line “if you look closely you will see the ink holding me together.”
Wednesday night featured Hanif Abdurraqib a “poet, essayist and political critic.” Hanif Abdurraqib has authored two poetry/essay books in the past two years and a third due out in 2019 which he says talks about “manipulating what we imagine as performance” as well as the idea of “black mundanity” being synonymous with “excellence.”
Abdurraqib read a few of his poems adding anecdotes about his life, growing up in Ohio and his experience as a black man in America, relating these experiences to the poems he performed. Most memorable was a poem inspired by a Montel Jordan song involving the line “it is a blessing knowing someone wants a funeral for you.” Continuing, Abdurraquib read more of his poems which included lines such as “memory is as fleeting as any other high” and “the poem begins not where the knife enters but where the knife twists.”
The sacrificial or benchmark poet of the night, meant to help the judges “calibrate” their scores, was Rippan Kaur who read a poem about sexuality and ethnicity including a line “Stories of Adam and Eve never stories of women who look like me.” Following Rippan was the night’s first competitor Genausha who performed a powerful poem about past relationships and seemed to create a metaphor of herself as a canvas and their partners painting it: “In my eyes, the canvas is still white as heaven.”
After Genausha, Reed recited a poem about body image and culture’s effect on the way he and others see himself, adding, “Taking up less space has been a generational mission.” His poem was essentially “listing” his attempts to alter his body to personal and societal standards both successfully and unsuccessfully.
The third competing poet was Gabe, who performed a poem about their childhood experience: “Dad wanted me to destroy something I chose myself.” Their poem was partially in the form of a letter to their mom about how living is a form of fighting back. The theme of Gabe’s poem resonated with many slam poets and attendants of the Big O’ Poetry Slam.
After the six competing poets excellently performed their pieces the scores were calculated; in second place was Reed with a score of 23; close behind the night’s first place poet, Gabe received a score of 24.3. Both poets will compete in the Grand Slam on November 14 along with the winning poets of the next and final slam, Big O’ Poetry Slam number 163. Slam 163 is on Wednesday, October 24 with feature poet Sierra Demulder, and hosted by The Poetry Slam Association which meets every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Hunt Union Square.