Last Thursday evening, the University of Maine Campus Activities Board (CAB) hosted a poetry slam at the Memorial Union. This was the fifth bi-annual poetry slam at UMaine, where six student contestants shared their original poems in a three-round competition.
The first contestant to perform was randomly selected, and for the second and third rounds, the lowest-scoring poet performed first, while the highest-scoring poet went last. The scores were given by a panel of three judges, all of whom have competed in a poetry slam before.
“Being on the other side is definitely odd,” Kirsten Daley, a judge and second-year anthropology student, said. “Slam poetry is very unique and personal to the author. I am looking for the poems that flow nicely, and have real emotions put behind it. Body language is also very important.
When the competition started, the North Pod of the Memorial Union was packed. With nearly a hundred people in the audience and no empty seats, for some attendees it was standing room only. During the performances, members of the audience snapped their fingers whenever they heard a line or a word with which they agreed or connected.
“Snapping fuels my fire. It is so great hearing someone snap in the middle of your poem,” Lucy Comaskey, a third-year student studying English said.
Comaskey, a first-time contestant in the slam, won first place. In addition to winning a large pumpkin and an eco-friendly lanyard, Comaskey won the opportunity to perform her work as an opening act for Boston-based poet Neil Hilborn.
With over 10 million hits on his poem “OCD,” Hilborn is the most viewed slam poet on YouTube. Having performed at UMaine last November, Hilborn is coming back again on April 15 of next year. The upcoming spring semester’s poetry slam winner will also be opening up for Hilborn, along with Comaskey.
“I feel like a lot of girls and guys can relate to the feeling of being objectified. I was hoping for my poem to be the voice these people are looking for, and show a different side to the story,” Comaskey said.
During the event, performing poets opened up about their feelings and emotions to the crowded audience.
“It is almost easier to share your personal feelings with strangers because you’ve never met them before,” Molly Westbrook, one of the contestants, said. “I had a chemistry test today, and all of my energy was poured into my poetry, so I feel drained, but a good kind of drained,” Westbrook said.
“Every poet was spectacular,” Comaskey said. “Performing at a poetry slam is such a great experience. It gives you a unique chance to express yourself, your raw self. In that moment, the audience is giving you their undivided attention, and that is something so special and rare.”
The next poetry slam is set to be held in March 2016.