Slam! at NYU continues win streak

Zoe Thompson, Staff Writer

For Slam! at NYU, the streak continues. On March 29, the club won College Union’s Poetry Slam Invitational 2015 for the third time in four years. NYU’s team of six burgeoning poets, including CAS senior Zev Alexander, attributes the team’s ongoing success to the members’ dogged commitment, integrity and intimate relationships with one another.

“This year, the thing that went really well with the team was that we were writing together,” Alexander said. “It was a team effort.”

Hosted at Virginia Commonwealth University, CUPSI 2015 fostered a diverse and supportive space for students to share their stories. CAS junior and three-year member Crystal Valentine finds solace in voicing her thoughts in a judgement free environment.

“As a woman of color, everything that I do is affected by the politics of this world,” Valentine said.  “Performance poetry gave me a voice. In spoken-word communities, I feel more at home and safe.”

Alexander has been involved in spoken-word poetry since high school. Unfortunately, confronted by a fear of performing, he considers his stage fright to be a result of his introspective and deeply personal style.

“This year, the two individual pieces I brought were very different from each other,” Alexander said. “One was an open letter to my 14-year-old self and my other poem was based on the premise that my apartment is haunted. It talks about mental health and suicide, the people who I’ve lost and could lose.”

Tisch sophomore Lydia Bernatovicz, a Slam! member, stressed the importance of believability within performance poetry.

“I talk a lot about my opinions and my feelings about myself, also my relationships with other people and to the world,” Bernatovicz said. “I performed two poems, one was a group piece about our experiences with our mothers and coming to terms with the lies that they told to protect us. I also did an individual piece about my relationship with my mental illness.”

CUPSI performances must be under three minutes and are scored from one to 10. Each team member is expected to bring his or her unique style and voice to the stage through a mixture of individual and group performances. Alexander said that this demands a high-degree of communication.

“My job is to have a narrative I need to get on stage and condense my entire heart and soul in under three minutes in a way that is accessible, that makes sense, that’s not caught up in too many metaphors but is still creative, pretty and interesting,” Alexander said.

This year, the team performed and watched politically themed poems that discussed poignant current events, including gender discrimination and the death of Michael Brown. Tisch sophomore Karina Stow said such works raise the issues of social accountability and experience within society.

“There were so many poems about relevant topics that are going on in the United States right now — race, domestic violence, university sexual harassment policies,” Stow said.

The poets of NYU’s Slam! Team said they strive to continuously perpetuate the strength of the creative voice in provoking both global change and personal growth. 

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 13 print edition. Email Zoe Thompso at [email protected].