The University of Michigan Slam Poetry Club hosted its final campus performance of the academic year Thursday in the Michigan League basement to an audience of 40 people. The themes of the poems performed centered around family, acceptance and identity.
Performers at the event were LSA sophomores Laura Schwendeman and Alyssa Holt and LSA juniors Trevor Torres and Eileen Li. The four compose the organization’s National Slam Poetry Team. From April 6 to 9, they will travel to Austin, Texas to compete in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational against more than 60 different collegiate teams.
Schwendeman shared a poem during the event about her grandmother’s battle with postpartum psychosis, and another about her relationship with her father.
“A lot of the poems we read tonight aren’t specific instances or experiences that everyone in the audience might have had, but hopefully they could connect on them on some level,” she said. “That’s sort of the basis of poetry … to get people to relate to us in a way we can relate to them.”
LSA junior Coral Lu said she attended the event to support Schwendeman and the club as a whole. One of the most moving poems for her, she said, was Torres’ poem about his battle with juvenile diabetes and celiac disease.
“They were all really powerful and all really sad,” Lu said. “It was just really powerful how his personal experiences talked to you … I didn’t really expect it to be that personal and strong.”
For Schwendeman, the evening’s performance was a chance for the team not only to showcase its work, but also to gain feedback from the University audience about its poems. Forming the national team is a long process, she said, beginning in January. In the lead up to the final decisions, there are both a series of fall events and poetry slams each month.
Lu said she thought it was important for students to come and support organizations like the Slam Poetry Club, both to provide feedback to the poets about their writing as well as to be exposed to a new art form.
“I think there are a lot of amazing things going on on campus that people don’t really know of,” she said. “They’re going to nationals and it’s a pretty big thing, but not too many people know of it. And they definitely need to practice, and we need to get to know how awesome they are and what slam poetry really is.”
Kylie Carpenter, a Public Health masters student, said she found Li’s poem about miscommunication between her mother’s native language and her English the most powerful, adding that she thought slam poetry gives students an outlet they wouldn’t otherwise find at the University.
“I thought that was interesting, like the different perspective of the culture,” she said. “It’s something like a hobby that people have, you can’t express it during classes. It’s something you can kind of experience in a creative side.”
Schwendeman said she saw slam poetry as an authentic way for students to express themselves.
“I feel once we got to college, we wanted something more authentic and real and raw, and this is a really easy way to tell your story 100 percent honestly,” she said. “When I first went to a poetry slam, I was floored, like ‘I have to do that!’ because you just write your story down, and then you just get up in front of a mic and say it and that’s really powerful.”