Poetic Justice

Cheyenne Dorsagno, Copy Editor


SUNY Oneonta’s Poetry Slam Association hosted its first “Big O Poetry Slam” of the year on September 16. These shows typically are held in the Waterfront Room of Hunt Union every other Wednesday at 8 p.m. Those who are interested in performing have to be one of the first ten students to sign up, shortly before the event begins. Audience members volunteer to be judges and assign a numerical value out of ten to each poem presented. Any rating below an eight usually receives brave, hateful “boos” from the audience members. The two poets who get the highest accumulative scores will become qualifiers for the Grand Slam in Austin, Texas.Their first professional guest, Amy Leon, is a 22 year old poet, actor, and singer. On her website, she describes herself as “a lover of the simple things, the beautiful things, [and] the people who create and redefine what beautiful means.” Her chapbook, The Water Under the Bridge is a compilation of 38 poems about the “grit and fight and the rebirth.” Some of the topics Leon confronted were spousal abuse, sexism, racism, and most of all, love.

Leon shared with the audience a poem she performed at an event that changed her life; one where Trayvon Martin’s mother spoke about the tragedy of the loss of her son. She opened the piece by wailing, perhaps like a mother who has lost her child. The most powerful line stated, “They tell me I have no rights to my body then force me to have a baby and kill it for me.” In a similar poem, she talked about the difficulty that minorities may have when accepting their given identity saying, “I took bleach to my skin.”

One of her other poems entitled “How to Love Someone Who Cannot Yet Love Themselves”, imagined a woman who both fears and loves the father of her child. Leon urged that the friends of such a person should be understanding and encouraging. They should not insult the abuser because the victim will only hear an insult to their judge of character, and while supporting a change in the victim’s lifestyle is the ideal goal, it has to be accepted that no one can make their decisions for them.

Some of SUNY’s own talent included one man who introduced himself as “The Architect.” With his poetry, he portrayed a young woman who lost her father and an unborn child, which resulted in her suicide. He concluded, “It could have all been different if I had just said hello.”

Jordan Mayer shared his experience of running into the father who had left his family by choice ten years ago. This horribly nonchalant exchange at the grocery story inspired him to tell the audience all of the hilarious insults he wished that he had said to his dad.

Princeton Smith’s slam poem spelled out the word “annoying,” a label he has suffered many times, and stopped at “y” to recount all of the hurtful questions his behavior has had people ask. He spoke about ADHD and the way in which “we begin to play a role” that is assigned to us before concluding with “-ing.”

Denny Agassi—the winner of the night with a score of 26.7 out of 40—was rewarded for her poem that gave a voice to the Trans* Community. She told the story of a father abruptly switching television channels when having to confront headlines about hate crimes and suicide involving transgender individuals. She went on to list the names of many of these victims. Agassi exclaimed, “Trans* women of color muted,” often as a means of their own survival.

Agassi admitted that even she has lost count of the lives lost, and that those “bullets are just as murderous as Dad’s love.” This poem made clear how family can serve as a strong or weak foundation while facing any adversity. Agassi concluded with this haunting and moving statement about a child’s self-worth through the eyes of their parent, “I wonder what he’ll do if he sees my name.”

The “Big O Poetry Slam” continues to show the power of the spoken word and the talent of these diverse, and sometimes unexpected, individuals. The evening’s host always warns that this explicit, controversial material can be unsettling although important and artistic.

Those who are negatively triggered by the material are always welcomed by the PSA’s members to step out at any moment or turn to them for consolation. LEAD credit is given to anyone who attends or participates. All are welcome, including those who are not poets, to the Poetry Slam Association’s meetings every Wednesday at 5 p.m. in the Glimmer Glass room upstairs in the Hunt Union.

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