Mac Slams: Semester Slam Preview

Macalester poets have been working all semester long on writing and performing spoken-word poems, competing against one another for a spot on the Mac team going to this year’s College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). After three competitive poetry slams over the past semester, 10 poets have been selected as possible candidates, and tonight, Friday Dec. 6 at 8p.m. in Olin Rice 350, they will all come together for the “Grand Slam.” At the slam they will read their strongest and most poignant creations in an attempt to snag one of the four available spots on this year’s CUPSI team. Hosted by MacSlams’ very own Abbie Shain ’14 and featuring poet Simone Beaubien, this is expected to be the biggest and most fun slam of the semester.

The past four years Macalester has sent a team of students to CUPSI. In 2010, their first year in attendance, they placed third out of 35 teams that competed. They quickly climbed up to first place in the nation by 2011, and have been taking home various awards ever since. Many Macalester poets have won Best Poet awards, and Macalester has consistently out-competed the most prestigious and well-known schools in attendance.

The 10 poets competing in this slam are: Oliver (Renee) Schminkey ‘16, Hana Sarfan ‘17, Anna Binkovitz ‘14, Natalie Kaplan ‘17, Talia Young ‘17, Quinton Singer ‘17, Kat Fleckenstein ‘14, Sherif Tawfik ‘14, Sarah Berman ‘14 and Kaara Vasquez ‘17. These poets are the winners of various slams held throughout the semester as well as the winner of the annual Cultural House Poetry Slam (Vasquez).

These are the “best of the best” from the Macalester poetry scene. These 10 poets, using nothing but their voices, will attempt to move the room with their experiences, opinions and stories. By creating a safe and accepting atmosphere, these slam poets share their life philosophies, opinions on current and formidable social issues, and most especially, their brave and emotional experiences.

Attendees can expect a welcome into the supportive community that surrounds spoken word poetry: a high energy environment, which fosters open and honest idea sharing and thrives on audience participation. It’s all about the “transfer of emotions,” Kaplan said.

“You don’t have to know poetry to come and join in.” Mac slammers explain that engaging in this poetic atmosphere creates immediate connections between all the people in the room.

In a similar fashion to every other slam, the Grand Slam will feature a well-known poet from the greater national slam community. This slam’s feature is Simone Beaubien, the “SlamMaster” of the internationally known Cantab Lounge poetry venue in Boston. Beaubien has won two Cambridge Poetry awards as well as other honors in poetry and performance in New England, and has acted as coach and host of slam poetry events as well.

Beaubien is a talent that can only be experienced in person. Refusing to let her poetry performances be recorded and put online, Beaubien proves her allegiance to poetic tradition. She thinks poetry should be experienced in the flesh, by being physically present and face-to-face with the performer. Beaubien is known especially for stressing the quality of the writing she shares over the performance-based aspects.

This slam offers not only a chance to come and hear people’s stories and see a famous poet, but also a look at some of the best, and probably award-winning, poets of Macalester this year. “Come and realize that poetry is relevant and happening,” Binkovitz, veteran poet and co-leader of MacSlams, said.

In the words of Schminkey, audience members can expect a “raucous ball of joyousness and fun.”