The Slam! at NYU poetry club held its second preliminary auditions last week in front of a packed house, on a bare stage with nothing but a standing microphone. Poetry slam contestants spilled their sorrows, made ingenious metaphors and put on a downright humorous presentation at the Eisner & Lubin auditorium at the Kimmel Center for University Life, as part of their weekly selection process.
The SLAM poetry club is made up of a majority of undergraduates and a few graduate students who come each week to share, listen and critique each other’s poems. Slam poetry or spoken word is different from the typical sonnet because the former is recited and performed in front an audience. Poets are encouraged to perform using hand gestures, deadpan silences and their own voice to emphasize their words.
The preliminaries include two rounds, with the first round allowing 18 poets to present their own original work. Six contestants then move on to the second round, where only four will be selected to move on to the second stage of audition. Poets were judged by five randomly chosen audience members.
As each poet went up to the microphone to speak about love, insecurities, religion, alcoholism and bullying, each were given a great deal of support as audience members snapped their fingers, expressed their “oohs” and “aahs” and cheered them on.
“That’s probably the best part about this community — the support everyone shows to each other,” said Tisch sophomore Hannah Kay Singleton, president of the SLAM club. “We’re a collaborative, supportive community.”
One of the four poets to move on was Steinhardt graduate student Eric Silver, a returning team member for the last three years and a co-founder of the SLAM club. Silver started getting involved in writing spoken word poetry during his freshman year, and now it has grown to become an important part of his life.
“There’s something so relieving about writing a story down on paper, and the words can twist and bend however they want,” Silver said. “There’s also something relieving about telling your deepest secrets to a room full of strangers.”
For other poets, it was their first time performing. CAS sophomore Malina Gulino was one of those first-time performing poets to make it to the next round.
“I’ve been writing poems … since middle school, but I only started to take my writing seriously about halfway through high school,” Gulino said.
One notable poet, Tisch senior Amy Leon, qualified for the second round and also holds the record of being the first American to win the U.K. Poetry Slam.
“Poetry is a saving grace.” Leon said. “I started performing slam poetry in the eighth grade at places around New York City, like the Bowery Poetry Club.”
The audition process will end with a team of six, who will then compete at the annual Poetry Slam competition at Boulder, Colo., where universities across the country will be competing for the title of best university slam poetry team.
Lawrence Wu is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]