Eric Silver is a master of the English language, but there is one subject he can’t articulate — himself.
It’s not that the CAS senior from Westchester, N.Y. doesn’t have anything to talk about and to make him proud. Silver is the third-year president and a co-founder of the university’s first slam poetry team, Slam! at NYU. Earlier this year, Silver led the team to victory as the number one collegiate slam poetry team in the country when they won the College Unions Poetry Slams Invitational.
Instead of his own accomplishments, performaces, and academics, Silver would rather talk about the talents of his fellow Slam! teammates, his friends at all the other schools and Shanna Williams and Taeesha Muhammad, his favorite department administrative aides.
“They’ll help you out,” Silver said without hesitation. “They’re probably the best people in this entire university.”
When Silver does talk about himself, it is reserved for his poetry. On the surface, Silver’s poems are lighthearted and humorous. In one work, Silver describes his mother as “the original sandwich artist; Subway got nothing on my mama.” His voice, like a comedian’s, is loud and inviting. A few moments later, his voice becomes reflective and somber, as the poem reveals its true purpose — to say goodbye to his mother as he leaves home to become an adult. “Your son is not tough,” Silver quietly reveals.
When Silver isn’t writing a poem, his focus is on those around him while he builds a community that embraces and unites all the diverse voices of NYU.
“I’ve really tried to be as open and as determined as possible [during] my time here at NYU,” Silver said. “Community is hard to come by.”
And if there is any team sport that thrives on the presence of others, it’s slam poetry. Slam!’s weekly meetings are open to all students, whether they have experience in slam poetry, are only getting started or are simply just curious about the craft. At the meetings, Silver leads writing workshops and encourages people to share their work, as well as their enthusiasm.
“Audience members are such a key, key, key part of any poetry slam,” Silver explained. “If you feel a way about a line, you’re supposed to make a noise like, ‘Aww, that’s crazy,’ or ‘Mmm, that’s so good,’ or snap or clap about it.”
Slam! has performed at events for various NYU clubs and organizations, including the LGBTQ Center, the Black Student Union and the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs.
“When our poems speak to other people, I feel like we’re making a really positive impact,” Silver added.
Silver’s other commitments include writing for NYU Local, helping at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life and serving on the e-board for Second Street residence hall. Silver also runs art workshops for convicted high school-aged boys on Rikers Island.
Slam! is still where Silver has made his greatest mark on NYU.
“Hopefully people come to these meetings and realize they have a place and a method to write about what they’re feeling,” Silver said. “Everyone has something about themselves that they need to talk about.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 13 print edition. Jeremy Grossman is film editor. Email him at email@example.com.