Last Friday, Oct. 13, The Dirigo Poetry Collective and the University of Maine Campus Activities Board (CAB) held a Poetry Slam. The winners were Jane Pappas in third place, Kirsten Daly in second and Taylor Bass in first.
The topics of the contestants’ poems ranged from queer love to cultural appropriation to police brutality.
The highlight of Bass’ night was a poem called “My Body Says that I’m Proud.” It was about embracing one’s body, no matter the standards set by society and the pressures to look a certain way.
Bass is a first-year at UMaine studying Biology with a pre-med focus. Her first foray into slam poetry was at an annual competition during her freshman year of high school, and she’s been competing ever since. As an introduction to her performance on Friday, Bass described herself as a “dirty activist.” She shared that activism is the main focus of her work. “I have always thought it was my duty to protest and raise awareness any way I can to change things.”
The competition was hosted by Cameron Grover, a graduate student studying poetry. He started the competition in 2013, his second year at UMaine and has run it ever since. Studying creative writing, Grover shared that he wanted to create a place to foster students’ passion and growth in poetry.
Daly’s most applauded poem was called “Good Hair,” a rage against cultural appropriation by white women. The final line read “Go home Becky, you don’t have good hair, and you sure as f— can’t have mine.” She pointed out the problems with commandeering another culture’s style, whether it be hair or clothing, without recognizing the hardships that they face for the same styles. Daly used the examples of white women wearing their hair in box braids or dreadlocks and the trend of wearing bindis at music festivals.
All of Pappas’ poems were centered around figuring out life as a gay person. She spoke of first experiences with love, the journey to embracing one’s sexuality and the quest to understand white people’s inherent racism as someone who’s familiar with the struggles of queer people.
Pappas shared that she has been writing poetry since she was a child, and started performing in public in 2010. She tries to use her poetry as a platform to discuss current events and social issues.
“As both a feminist and a queer person, it’s really important for me to speak out about injustices that affect myself and those around me, and poetry allows me to both explore those issues on a personal level and speak to others about them. It’s a creative outlet, and it’s a very intentional political platform as well.”
Grover closed the evening with a recitation of a poem by Neil Hilborn, a well-known slam poet, called “Audiobook.” CAB will be hosting Hilborn this coming Friday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m.