One of the newest organizations on Drake’s campus held its first annual event Friday night on Pomerantz Stage.
DU Spoken Word’s first poetry slam saw 13 competitors perform 15 original poems in front of their peers and guests.
Shea Seiff-Shahmirani attempted to start up a poetry group last year but never quite got things off the ground.
“When I came to Drake last year, there wasn’t really a poetry group on campus, and I really like poetry (and) doing slam poetry,” Seiff-Shahmirani said. “I wanted to start one up.”
This year, students showed greater interest and more support.
“I got more things in order, got more members, and it was approved (by Senate),” Seiff-Shahmirani said. “I was really surprised by how many people came to the meetings, that showed up for the events and just showed interest in this organization.”
The group became an official organization in February but has already held two different events. The first was an open mic night DU Spoken Word co-sponsored with To Right Love on Her Arms.
The poems performed were centered around self-harm and expressing the emotions behind those actions.
At the poetry slam on Friday evening, five judges ranked the different poems on a scale from one to 10. The best and worst scores were dropped while the remaining scores were averaged.
Junior law, politics and society major Anthony Pawnell received a first-place score for his original poem, “A Cliché Love Poem.”
Pawnell said that he did not come out to perform for himself but more so to support the other poets.
“(I like to) communicate to people that they can do it as well,” Pawnell said. “I know there are people who do enjoy performing, but I get stage fright and all (those) other things. So I’m a person who doesn’t enjoy performing. I just like to come in and just like push for everyone else to come do their work. If you’re going to come up and bless the mic, then come do your thing.”
Rin Clasen, a member of DU Spoken Word, said she is someone who simply enjoys performing and the expressiveness of spoken word poetry.
“I heard about DU Spoken Word and thought that this is a great movement on campus,” Clasen said. “I think when you perform, you get to put in a lot more emotion and the meaning behind the piece is a lot more clear. It’s a really cool art form in that way.”
Clasen’s purpose in performing her poem, “How to Write an Angsty Poem,” was to better reveal the emotion and reasoning that goes on behind the poems people write.
“Spoken word poetry has a lot of deep issues that are connected to it, specifically about mental illness,” Clasen said. “So I was trying to write a poem that was (saying that) a lot of this angsty poetry comes from actual mental illness and a lot of other struggles in their lives.”
For Clasen, spoken word poetry engages an audience in a way that silently reading a poem or hearing a speaker cannot do.
“I like that you get to hold them accountable and also to spread ideas in a really interesting way,” Clasen said. “Because a lot of the time if you just have a speaker come up and talk to you, you zone out, you get bored. But with this you get to get that idea across and get that emotion across.”
Seiff-Shahmirani, who also performed at the poetry slam, prefers to promote ideas about social justice in her poems.
“I focus a lot of my poetry on race, and it’s a different way of approaching topics instead of just talking about issues,” Seiff-Shahmirani said. “It’s a way to spread a message in a different form that people aren’t normally exposed to.”
While DU Spoken Word is done hosting events this year, the members have already looked ahead to the things they would like to do next year.
“Hopefully next year, I’m aiming to have different poets who are in the community come in and maybe do workshops, performances, things like that,” Seiff-Shahmirani said.
Next year, Seiff-Shahmirani would like to have Neil Hilborn, a College National Poetry Slam champion, perform and hold a workshop. The group is also looking to hold multiple open mic nights with different themes, such as diversity.