This winter, Lawrence University sophomores Mary Malina and Tierra Masupha founded Lawrence University’s first Slam Poetry Club. The club, which is open to all students, is a student-run organization that celebrates the art of slam poetry. Unlike conventional poetry, slam poetry does not place a particularly high premium on meter or rhyme schemes, but rather encourages the speaker to build the structure of the poem around his or her emotions.
Students performed a variety of pieces on Friday, Jan. 17, and their poems varied in both structure and content. Some performers rapped without beats, instead using their own words for rhythm, while others delivered startling prose that carried its weight in emotionally intense, lyrical content.
Sophomore Elkin Garcia, who performed an original piece that night, remarked about the cultural aspects of slam poetry that make it unique. “I’m part of a poetry program in New York, where I’m from, so I’m glad that this started up. I’m excited because at first it starts out as strangers coming together to share their emotions, but it becomes a family. It becomes a bond that’s stronger than poetry.”
The experience level of the performers varied. Some aspiring poets struggled to recite their poems off of tiny iPhone screens while others effortlessly recited memorized lines, but each performer on Friday told a unique story that resonated with the audience. Every poet was received with laughter, cheers and even shouts upon delivering the strongest lines of their pieces, which covered topics that varied from sexual liasons to unsolved human rights abuses.
The intimate, energetic environment created was due in part to founders Malina and Masupha’s emphasis on the club being a ‘safe space,’ an environment free of judgment in regards to one’s sex, gender, creed or color.
According to Malina, “We created this club because we wanted students to have a space where they feel confortable and they feel like they can connect with other poets.” Both she and Masupha became interested in slam poetry in high school, where they entered Chicago’s ‘Louder than a Bomb’ slam poetry competition.
However, not everybody in the club comes from an artistic backgroung. In fact, many of the students come from a variety of educational interests. As Masupha pointed out, there is not a correlation between the members’ interest in poetry and their majors. “It’s really diverse. We have people from the sciences department, the math department and education. It’s all over the place.”
Rather than students that have certain academic focuses or interests, Malina and Masupha seek students who are willing to “aspire, connect and express.” This was consistent with the club’s theme of diversity, a point that both Malina and Masupha emphazied at many points during the interview.
The Slam Poetry Club meets every Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Diversity Center in Memorial Hall, across from the Viking Room. Aspiring poets need only to write their name down to be queued for a performance.