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At most performances, the crowd erupts into loud applause to show appreciation and understanding. Upcoming poetry slam The Anthem will bring plenty of that, but what most poets strive for is a moment of silence.
At least, that’s the goal of performing slam poet Tatyana Brown.
“Spoken word has this amazing ability to make it so that everyone in the room is feeling the same thing at the same time,” Brown said. “Music does that in a loud chaotic, way. Spoken word can do that with silence.”
On May 11 at 6 p.m., Brown will be joined by four other slam poets: returning champion “Simply Kat” McGill, Levi the Poet, Terisa Siagatonu and Sam Sax. Prentice Powell will emcee the event and perform one “calibration poem” to set the evening’s tone.
The focus of slam poetry is an authentic connection between the audience and poet. Brown first got involved in slam poetry when she realized conventional workshops at her own college were not providing feedback for her to achieve that connecton.
“I was aware that my peers weren’t necessarily concerned if they were being relatable or accessible,” Brown said. “It seemed like the goal was to be as clever as possible instead of being as connected as possible.”
She discovered slam poetry by watching a YouTube video of poet Marty McConnell performing. She watched the video over and over for approximately 20 minutes before she realized this form of poetry was something that appealed to her over the conventions of written poetry.
Brown’s poetry is inspired mainly by her and others’ interactions with society’s presumptions and stereotypes.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about the given expectations that people have of females, of poor people, queer people and how that both shapes me and gives me something to push back hard against,” Brown said.
Her poems are a way for her to express herself and work through her own history. She hopes her work will inspire others to do the same.
“I want people to walk away from my poems feeling empowered, feeling permission to speak their minds and take big risks, and challenge the assumptions of who they are meant to be in the world,” Brown said.
Brown will share her poetry in at least the first two rounds of The Anthem. The poetry slam will take place in four rounds, the first two of which will have all poets perform two poems each. The third round will be the top two poets performing. Finally, there will be a victory round in which the chosen winner will perform one poem.
Random members of the audience hold up scores for each poem, ultimately choosing the competition’s winner.
“It is sort of interesting to have writers who really do this for a living getting scored by an audience of college students,” Brown said. “I feel like that is a really interesting angle and it is super humbling.”
The Anthem committee member and English junior Hannah Wertzberger has been planning the event for month, contacting poets that have performed before and discovering new poets on YouTube in an attempt to find high-energy, talented performers.
The poets involved all have diverse styles and themes — it’s not the type of poetry someone would be assigned in an English class. It is spoken in contemporary, relatable terms, according to Wertzberger.
English senior Carly Demetre has been to The Anthem on several occasions. She is especially a fan of Brown’s work, particularly “The Breakup, Or How To Move Into a House That Is On Fire.”
“Poetry can be seen as a performance in itself, and bringing this artistic form to the stage really brings the words to life for me,” Demetre said.
The Anthem will take place in Chumash Auditorium this Sunday and is free for students.