Overtime football playoffs be damned; there is poetry going on.
On Sunday, approximately 150 people gathered in the Hub at UCSB for Associated Students Program Board’s first poetry slam showcase. The showcase featured nationally recognized poets Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye of Project V.O.I.C.E. who performed poems about love, friendship, and politics.
Afterward, Sarah and Phil hosted the UCSB student slam competition. Eight carefully selected poets competed for the grand prize of cheers from their peers, a sweet A.S. t-shirt, and a custom poetry video made by fourth-year Communications major Brandon James.
The hosts, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, met in college and began a friendship over their love of performance poetry. They started the night with joint and solo pieces that delighted the crowd.
“I just love poetry,” third-year art and English major Danielle Zeisset said. “I liked how Phil and Sarah coordinated with each other.”
One poem that resonated with the crowd was dedicated to Sarah’s younger brother, who is the polar opposite of her. Phil transformed into “the Geico gecko” for one of his poems, which began with a humorous take of the fictional pitchman and ended with an examination of the meaning of existing as a performer.
“I am super inspired by Sarah and Phil,” Cal State Channel Islands student Andre Johnson said, who made the trip from Camarillo just to see Phil and Sarah after seeing them last week in Los Angeles.
Following Sarah and Phil’s performance, the students got their chance to slam poetry on the audience. A.S. Cultural Arts & Lectures Coordinator Aladrian “Dro” Goods organized the event. Goods said that she wanted to give poets a chance to show their skills on campus since there are already so many events for student musicians. UCSB students were appreciative.
“Slam poetry is a great movement for young people to express themselves,” third-year theater major Jacqueline Vietor said. “It’s nice to see them performing — not just reciting poems.”
The student performances covered a large range of topics including love, race, music, religion, politics, UCSB and hipsters. The eight poets — Bryant Macias, Ryan Yamamoto, Chanel Miller, Demi Anter, Stefan Fan, Mel Rosenberg, Vanessa Ramos and Michael Schirtzer — competed through three rounds. Traditional slam rules were used, with five random audience members acting as judges and the poets with the lowest scores being eliminated after each round.
“I was nervous about the slam style at first, because I wasn’t sure about how the judging would work, but Phil and Sarah said it best — the points are not a reflection of your poetry,” second-year College of Creative Studies literature major and participant Demi Anter said. “It was a great experience overall and I’d love to do it again.”
Based on the audience’s enthusiastic response to the poems, all of the poets did well. Each poet received loud claps, cheers of “mhmm,” “you said it, girl!” and “PREACH!” as well as finger snaps during and after their performances. In fact, the only boos of the evening were for the student judges who gave out consistently low scores. Phil and Sarah constantly reminded the audience to applaud the poets, not the score.
Although all of the poets gave memorable performances, technically there were just two winners, due to a tie. The co-winners of the evening were Mel Rosenberg and Chanel Miller, both second-year literature majors in the College of Creative Studies (apparently it’s the slam poet training department — Anter received third place). Both performers were excited and surprised to win.
“I can’t even express it,” Rosenberg said. “I didn’t think I would get to the third round.”
“Spectacular” is how Miller described it as her friends gave her hugs and handshakes. Both wins are doubly impressive, considering Rosenberg and Miller only started doing spoken word last year.
In the end, the real winners were the audience. Many, including this author, had never been to a poetry slam before. Not only was the audience treated to amazing poems by Sarah and Phil, the student poems were a welcomed addition. Hopefully, we have not seen the last of these performers yet.
To find out more about Sarah and Phil, visit www.project-voice.net. To watch the student performers’ submissions, check out www.wherevent.com/detail/as-program-board-poetry-slam-showcase-featuring-sarah-and-phil-kay-e.