Annual poetry slam to be a hit

By Steve Sedlak

Friday is not a numerical value, Noah Exum ’12 said sympathetically when I complained of mistyping the date of this year’s Poetry Slam as being on Oct. 23 to the power of Friday. Friday to the power of Friday is just too much Friday. For someone not even performing in next week’s event, it struck me as a strangely poetic statement. I sat down with Exum, a resident of the Cultural House, where the event will be held, to talk about the upcoming Slam.The logistics: On Friday, Oct. 23, the Cultural House in cooperation with the Department of Multicultural Life will be putting on the 15th annual Macalester Poetry Slam. The slam is composed of two rounds and nine student contestants, and each round will be kicked off by a “sacrificial” poet not actively participating in the contest to heat things up.

The Poetry Slam started 15 years ago when it was founded by the now nationally-renown slam poet and Mac grad Bao Phi ’97. Phi, a Vietnamese-American Minnesotan, went on to win the Minnesota Grand Poetry Slam twice.

“Poetry slamming primarily originated in communities of color and draws off of a strong history of storytelling and oral tradition,” Exum said. “I think that we at the DML and the Cultural House put the slam on out of a desire to pay tribute to those traditions.”

The DML, dedicated to creating forums for dialogues about identity, wants the Slam to be a safe space of acceptance and community enjoyment.

“Slam poetry is unique in that it combines all the unique qualities of poetic verse with hip hop and rap traditions,” remarked Exum. “There’s such a difference between the experience of reading poetry and seeing it really performed. It’s so energizing – it’s impossible not to get emotionally involved.”

So why come to the Poetry Slam?

“It’s a Macalester tradition,” Exum said. “The Cultural House is packed wall to wall with people excited to be there, listening to their fellow students. And a lot of new students haven’t had a chance to experience it yet, so it’s a great experience for first-years.