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The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mac Poetry slams the competition

Mac Poetry slams the competition

In a feat of poetic justice, Macalester’s five-person slam poetry team took home the gold at the Midwest Poetry Mashup, a regional slam poetry contest held by Button Poetry, over the weekend.  

The competition was split into five bouts, each with four teams presenting four poems. The first four bouts decided which of the eight teams would make it to the four-team finals. Mac Slams competed in the second and fourth bouts, getting first place in both. For Mac Slams, the first bout started with a solo piece from Rue Musharu ’27, followed by a group piece by Musharu and Adrien Wright ’25, then a solo piece by Zari Baker ’27 and ending with a piece by Tommy Fowler ’25. In a close call, Mac Slams squeezed by Team Unpublished for a first-place win. Their second bout started with a piece by Wright, followed by a solo piece by Cal Martinez ’26*, then another solo by Fowler and, finally, a group piece by Musharu and Baker. Mac Slams also won this round in stellar fashion and solidified their position as the favorite to win the finals. 

And win they did. Baker, Wright and Musharu all had their solo piece. The final piece Mac Slams performed was a group piece from Martinez, Wright and Fowler. Each of these pieces was beautiful in its own right, and by the end of the night it was a unanimous decision that Mac Slams would be going home with first place. Mac Slams was declared the winner of the second annual Midwest Poetry Mash-up, and won $300 with the title. 

Mac Slams’ win isn’t just a win for Macalester, but also for a new growth of slam poetry in the younger generation. While there were few college-aged poets at the competition and no other college-centric teams, Mac Slams serves as a powerful new force on the slam scene. Slam is usually seen as a dying art form, something more for adults or to be left in the 2010s. Additionally, slam poetry has suffered major blows post-COVID-19 after a full stop to live performances, leaving it on a shaky recovery path even in the Twin Cities, an area known for its thriving slam community. Mac Slams is at the forefront of reversing this trend, bringing fresh voices to slam poetry and, quite obviously, making waves wherever they go. Mac Slams proves no art form has an expiration date, and how important it is for new artists to spearhead the growth and push the boundaries of poetry. 

Mac Slams’ win doesn’t represent the incredible team alone, it marks a new start for strong, radical, and young voices to further the slam community. With Mac Slams as a guide, other schools have even started to follow suit.

“The [University of Minnesota’s] program shut down over COVID, but they just contacted us last month and said ‘Hey, we’re trying to put on this slam, how do you do that?’” Wright said. “Having the information on how this works is super important because it’s a place where people learn from each other.”

Unfortunately, not all share this point of view. Recently, it was announced that 48% of club budgets would be cut across the board. This included the previously allocated $12,000 that would be used to pay for poets to come and perform at events, as well as allowing club members to attend readings, workshops and writing retreats. The team is coached by Ollie Schminkey ’16 and Natalie Kaplan ’16, both Macalester alumni who have coached the team for the past 8 years. 

“Many coaches don’t get paid and this is really unsustainable for folks to do that,” Kaplan said, addressing the impact of the budget being cut and the impact it will have on the club’s future. 

“We started emailing people a month ago to book for next year, and if we don’t have more money, then we can’t put together the events.” Adrien Wright ’25, poet and captain of the club added. 

This budget cut threatens to reverse the progress Mac Slams has made against the struggles of slam’s decline. 

“One thing that I see is that the institutional knowledge and the infrastructure has just, like, totally gone away for a lot of different colleges, which is one of the reasons why I care so much about Macalester getting a chance to do this,” Schminkey noted.  

But clearly, slam is an art form that deserves attention and funding.

“Slam poetry is a medium that really encourages people to share personal stories about their life and political messages… and college students are people who are grappling with those kinds of questions,” Wright said. “It’s really interesting to hear a huge variety of perspectives, and also to give people a way to vocalize those things.”



*Cal Martinez ‘26 is a news editor for the Mac Weekly. 

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    Del EhresmanApr 26, 2024 at 8:22 pm

    Would have been informative if this article had mentioned what other colleges participated and what some or all of the results were.