Poetry slams can vary in different ways. There can be a group of deep intellectuals sharing their impressive, yet depressive verse, kids trying to prove to people that they are thinkers as well as everyone in between. Events like this are often held in museums, libraries, public spaces, or quaint little coffee shops. So, when I heard there was a poetry slam at the City College Café, I immediately pictured myself sitting in a candle-lit room, sipping on a piping hot cappuccino, and listening to poems about love, loss and heartbreak. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived to find out that City College Café was really just the school’s cafeteria. They sectioned off a part of the dining area using sheer black curtains, and completely filled the space with round tables and mismatched folding metal chairs. However, despite the less than satisfactory ambiance, the venue was completely packed full of viewers. The excited energy that was coming from the audience was contagious. I walked around the perimeter of the room, passing the refreshment tables, searching for a seat. Along the way, I grabbed a quarter of a bagel and cream cheese to munch on during the slam. I finally found a spot to sit off to the side of the stage, which gave me a perfect profile view of the contestants. By then, I had noticed two big projector screens hanging on either side of the stage, which were going through a constant string of pictures of famous poets and their poetry. There was a DJ as well, playing upbeat hip-hop and pop music. I sat there in curious anticipation, waiting for the first contestant to take the stage, I had no idea what to expect at this point.
The excitement in the chatter of the audience began to grow as the MC took the stage. He was a young man that appeared to be just as eager for the show to start as we were. He started off by explaining how a poetry slam works, and then began introducing the contestants. I was extremely surprised that much of the poetry that was being read was about violence, racial and sexual inequality and political and economic issues. One contestant read a poem completely in Spanish, which was about homelessness and the problems in society. He was close to tears at one point. Another contestant said in one of her lines, “I am poor so I must be a democrat.” Her poetry was well thought out and extremely politically and socially driven. Many of the poems that were read felt like spoken word poetry. A lot of the poets had a rhythm to their poetry that almost made it sound like they were rapping or singing. Every contestant showed deep emotional connections to what they were speaking about, so much so, that the audience could feel their passion. After every poem, they would clap and cheer, which added to the ease and comfort of the atmosphere. Overall, this event helped me focus on some social issues that I have never given much thought to. Also, it helped reconstruct my thoughts and ideas as to what a poetry slam can be. I was really pleased to come out of there with some other perspectives and ideas for me to ponder over.