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Poetry slams become a popular student attraction

By SOPHIA BAUER,  Staff Writer

In one corner of the room, a college student is talking to herself, repeating words under her breath at breakneck speed. On the side of a tiny stage, another student is pacing, wearing a hole into the wooden planks with his nerves. The room is packed to the limit with students, both sitting and standing, every single person eagerly anticipating what will soon start. Not a play, not a speech, but a poetry slam.

Put on by the group Word Hammer, these poetry slams, which take place in the Park Library on the Central Michigan University campus, occur about twice a semester and are a popular student attraction, open for anyone to attend. Performances are either a showcase, where students simply read their poetry, or a slam competition, where students read their pieces and are then judged by a panel of five volunteers from the audience. The next poetry slam will be 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28.

Members of Word Hammer spend their weekly practices improving their poetry and getting ready for their performances. Led by a faculty advisor, Professor Roxanne Wellington, as well as the group’s president and vice president, there are about 15 members, although poets tend to come and go. During the meetings, these students critique each other’s work, write pieces about prompts, perform for each other, and give tips on performance aspects such as gestures and vocal tone.

CMU senior Emily Sirovy has been a member of Word Hammer for almost two years. She enjoys writing slam poetry and being a part of Word Hammer. “There are a lot of different, interesting people that I would not have even met if not for Word Hammer, and they bring funny inspiration into your life,” she says.

Interested in getting involved? While Word Hammer meetings are only open to Central Michigan University students, the slams are open to anyone who wishes to perform. A poetry slam is simply a competition where poets perform their work, and are judged by members of the audience. Much of the poetry is written with the intention that it will be spoken, not read from a page.

For students who are thinking about writing their own slam poetry, Sirovy advises
them to start by looking up slam poets, such as Andrea Gibson or Brave New Voices, to get a feel for the poetry style..

As for actually writing a piece of slam poetry, Sirovy offers one last piece of advice: “The words don’t always have to be pretty. If your topic is ugly, your words should be too.”

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