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“The Anthem” third annual slam poetry contest
Seven of the nation’s most accomplished slam poets will come together as part of Cal Poly’s third annual poetry slam, “The Anthem” this evening.
With the goal of showing that words have enough power to change the world, the event will present poets who are champions from the international slam circuit, including some who have performed on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and National Public Radio. The show will address issues of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, class, identity and love.
“It’s not poetry like you think of poetry, it’s in your face, political, controversial and really entertaining,” journalism senior and Anthem Committee member Rachel Gellman said.
“It is supposed to show Cal Poly students that what they say can make a difference. Poetry in general is a very different avenue of expression and I think the Anthem is a great source for people to learn,” she said.
The competition, sponsored by the Cal Poly English department and the College of Liberal Arts, was influenced by the Another Type of Groove performances put on by Associated Students, Inc. every month. However, instead of featuring just one poet, the committee expanded the event to feature several from around the country. It drew over 1,000 students and community members to the Cal Poly campus last year.
English graduate student and committee head Sarah Suksuri said the Anthem is different and unique every year.
“This year is going to be even more amazing than the last two,” she said. “As it grows, more nationally recognized poets are joining the event and getting excited about it. We get more audience members every year.”
“The experience is going to resonate with people differently,” Gellman added. “I think it’s hard to argue that people won’t be inspired.”
The Anthem Committee, which has been planning the event since the beginning of winter quarter, is composed of several students that represent a wide variety of majors, including art and design and graphic communications. It has a few major criteria for picking the performers.
“The main criteria for selecting poets is that the Cal Poly student body would be interested in hearing what they have to say,” Gellman said.
The master of ceremonies will be Derrick Brown, a winner of the 2004 California Independent Book Critics’ Award as well as six first-place poetry slams from around the world, in places like Venice Beach, Germany and England. Brown has performed at over 1,200 international venues, including the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,“ the Nuyorican Poets Café in NYC and the La Sorbonne in Paris.
In addition to last year’s champions Tara Hardy and Alvin Lau, first-time participants Shira Erlichman, Chinaka Hodge, George Watsky and Poetri will perform.
Each poet will perform for two to four minutes in a total of three rounds. Four audience members, chosen on the day of the event, judge the poets on content, performance and time limit.
Gellman said that poetry, with plays on words and rhyming, provides new avenues to get a point across.
“Musically, it’s like hip-hop in a sense that you can listen and not necessarily pay attention to all the words but it will still sound amazing. When you actually hear what these poets are saying it’s almost hard to believe that they can make the poems sound so good and still have a message. It has a lot of substance,” she said.
Besides providing entertainment, Gellman said that the Anthem might also reveal creative career opportunities.
“People don’t have to just write essays for school. They can write performance poems that will inspire,” she said.
Suksiri echoed the sentiment.
“If you’re interested in seeing how powerful words can be and how poets can take the form of poetry to a higher level, come to the Anthem. It’s a great event for anyone interested in opening their mind to new things,” Gellman said.
“This event provides the opportunity to share issues that are important to our generation with students who may not even have otherwise been interested in poetry at all,” Suksuri added.
The Anthem will be held from 7 t0 10 p.m. in the Chumash Auditorium on May 27. Free T-shirts will be handed out to the first 25 audience members as well as anyone who purchases poets’ merchandise. The Anthem Committee suggests arriving early because seats are expected to sell out fast.