Wake Article – University of Minnesota Slam Poets Take On The Windy City

And here’s my other article from Issue 10 about the cool people going to Chicago to represent the U in a slam poetry competition!


Last semester, the U’s official Slam Poetry Organization, SPEAK Poetry, hosted tryouts at the Whole Music Club, offering space for artists to share their voices.  In return, judges selected representatives from those who performed for the 2017 national slam poetry tournament, CUPSI, at the University of Chicago, IL. After several tryouts, five individuals were selected to represent the U at the tournament this coming April. Below are some responses from two of our representatives interviewed, Rola Alasmar and Duncan Slagle.


The Wake: What was the process of being selected to represent the U at the 2017 CUPSI Tournament?


Rola: Speak Poetry held three monthly slams and the top three scorers from each qualified to go on to compete at the Grand Slam in December. Judges for each slam were just random audience members, so there was definitely a little bit of luck in the process depending on who your judges were. But everyone who ended up qualifying is incredibly talented, and I think the process worked in a wondrous way, leading us all to be on the team together.


The Wake: Do you have a favorite slam artist? If so, who? What makes them your favorite, and do they inspire your work?


Duncan: There’s a slam team/collective/dinner group called Sad Boy Supper Club that’s made up of poets Sam Sax, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Danez Smith, and Cam Awkward-Rich. Their individual bodies of work inspire me, all things queer, sad, glorious, bloody, empowering, and tender. Get into them!


The Wake: What inspires you most as a slam poet?


Rola: Slam poetry is pretty much the best place to be able to go on stage and yell about your problems while still being able to call it an art. Hearing the audience respond to your stories and messages, and react to lines that really stand out to them is a really powerful feeling. Slam poetry is cathartic in nature for me, and the way you feel after a performance is something you can’t really get anywhere else, and that’s what keeps me going as a writer and performer.


The Wake: Is there a rehearsal process you and your fellow representatives go through before the tournament? If so, what does it consist of?


Duncan: Yeah, the process is very focused on creating content together and sharpening poems we’ve already written. Group pieces are written on topics that we feel mutually passionate about. We give each other writing and performance feedback on pieces we’ll be individually slamming. We laugh. We cry. We talk about memes. We dissect different socio-economic oppressions that we and folks we love face. We stress about deadlines.


The Wake: Do you have any tips for aspiring slam poets, for example, how can more people get involved?


Rola: Be passionate and don’t be afraid to share the most personal aspects of yourself. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and the more you do it the easier it will get and the better you will feel afterwards. Find ways to relate to people, but wholeheartedly be yourself. You are the only person who knows your stories and no one can tell them better than you so figure out what’s inside of you that you need to share with the world. You don’t have to always have a set idea for where your writing is going. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, with a great line, and I just type it in the notes of my phone to later put it to use. You just have to start writing and editing and sometimes things don’t turn out as well as you hoped but you just gotta keep going. Find poets who inspire you and watch other people’s performances and read other work. It will inspire you to share your own stories.


The Wake: What is the message you want to get across with your slam poetry?


Duncan: “Queer” has a lot of different faces, definitions, and manifestations— all worth witnessing.


Rola: I feel like I have a lot of feelings and different things that I write tend to showcase different aspects of myself. I guess I use poetry as a way for the world to understand me and a way for me to better understand myself.

Read this article on wakemag.org!


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