An audience of nearly 55 peers and professors witnessed an epic battle of words last night when English and literature students alike collided on stage for professor Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s Poetry Slam.
The competition – open to English Club members, English majors and College of Creative Studies students – was also part of an assignment for Lim’s English 109: Writing of Verse course. At the event in Old Little Theatre, 19 students performed original pieces in front of a panel of judges, and two winners were selected.
Fourth-year English major Rachel Turner said the slam is a much different form of expression than formal and written poetry. Additionally, competitors were limited to 3-minute performances.
“There’s a specific style to it,” Turner said. “It’s more acting than poetry.”
The performance also reflected a variety of genres, ranging from the comical to the somber and personal. Several poems referenced racial tension, and others covered such issues as war, poverty and peer pressure. The evening also featured an ode to a cupcake, and each piece culminated with cheers and applause from the audience.
After about an hour, the judges gathered to decide the winners of the slam. The panel included CCS visiting literature professor Barry Spacks, Early Modern Center graduate student Mac Test and Center for Black Studies Publications Manager Chryss Yost, all of whom are published poets.
Fourth-year English majors Brandon Meyer and Sean Rys tied for first place and were awarded a $50 gift certificate to the UCSB bookstore.
Rys performed a poem entitled “Revenge of the Poet,” drawing laughter from the audience by elaborating on common stereotypes associated with English majors and poets.
“It was an amazing opportunity,” Rys said. “It’s expressive, interactive, and you get to bring [your poetry] to life.”
Rys was also awarded the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize by the University of California. His poem will represent UCSB and he will compete at the Berkeley campus against several other UC representatives for the $500 prize named after a California poet laureate.
Meyer, a Daily Nexus copyreader, shared a three-piece set in which he observed the university from varying viewpoints. His poems detailed the perils of the bike paths when left in the hands of fools, the personification of Halloween in Isla Vista as a dark mistress and the restrained point of view of those who truly own the town.
“I tried to capture all angles of life at UCSB,” Meyer said. “They all came out of things I had seen and conversations I had with friends.”
Third-year English major Hannah Lott-Schwartz was awarded third place and fourth-year English major Christopher Otte won second prize.
Lott-Schwartz performed a passionate, emotionally driven work from memory, while Otte shared his adoration for William Shakespeare, stating that Shakespeare’s poems were like “a million harps played by Jesus and his clones.”