Racial identity, gender stereotypes and eating disorders were just a few of the topics covered by the artists at Poetic Release’s annual Grand Slam Thursday night.
A crowd of over 50 students gathered in the University of Connecticut Student Union ballroom to listen to six of the club’s members present their pieces, as they competed to attend a national slam poetry conference.
Eighth-semester economics major Nandhana Sanjeev, who hosted the event and presented the artists, asked the audience to cheer, clap and snap for their favorite presenters.
“This week has been hard for many people for a lot of reasons,” Sanjeev said. “We have each other. Show love to your poet and the poet will love back.”
The slam was comprised of three rounds, with each poet presenting one piece per round.
Five impartial judges from the audience gave their scores at the end of each piece, with the audience booing at the lower marks and cheering for the higher ones.
Each artist had their own style and theme to their poetry, with some poets connecting their pieces to a larger situation or theme. One poet even wrote about her first menstrual period and her dream to become a gynecologist.
Another poet described the scrutiny she faced from her mother when she dated a transgender boy.
The poets with the top four scores will go on to attend College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in Chicago. The trip, funded by the UConn Student Government and fundraisers held by Poetic Release, will feature slam poets from colleges from around the world, Sanjeev said.
Sanjeev will attend the Invitational as well with the finalists. This is her last year with Poetic Release before she graduates.
“It’s fun to be on the stage on see the work,” Sanjeev said.
Poetic Release gives artists an outlet for their creativity and a place to practice in, according to the participants in the slam.
“I’ve always written poetry, and I didn’t have enough performance experience,” said Kelly Stoldt, a sixth-semester psychology major who will attend the Slam Invitational in April. “Even on the roughest days it’s the greatest place to be in.”
Many audience members said that they enjoyed the performance, with many attending to see their friends and co-workers perform their poetry.
“It’s nice to see the amount of talent on this campus,” said Hannah Meyers, a fourth-semester psychology major. “It’s something I love to come to.”
Towards the end of the show one of the club’s alumni, Julian Rose, came to perform one of his own pieces as the final scores were calculated.
Rose, who graduated in 2016, said that the club has helped him with his current job as a science teacher.
“I really love what Poetic Release has done for UConn and the community,” Rose said. “I’ve taken the knowledge of poetry (and performance) to the school where I teach now.”
Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.