Snaps to That: The State of Slam Poetry at Oberlin

Abby Hawkins, Arts Editor

Despite the numerous readings, workshops and special seminars held for Creative Writing students, the department’s curriculum is sorely lacking in nontraditional forms of poetry, including slam — this disconnect that prevents any sort of academic dialogue with the slam scene before it could start. In Creative Writing workshops, competition and unfiltered emotion are veiled in civility and academic jargon, but the raw heart of slam lies in the immediate, uncensored audience response. If you’re good, the whoops and whistles of audience members let you know you’re good; if nobody’s feeling you, that will be made quite apparent as well. That being said, slams at Oberlin are much more supportive than poetry clubs at large — unless you deviate from your piece and launch into stream-of-consciousness political diatribe, your listeners will stick by your side to watch your story fully unravel. What better venue for blossoming poets to test their material?

Writers of Oberlin, forget everything you’ve been taught about poetry, go to a slam event on campus (or YouTube “Nuyorican slam poetry”), and pick up your pens. Don’t be afraid to explore a whole new facet of this timeless, essential art form and bolster the mutual dialogue among slam poets and their academic counterparts. Take the first step this Saturday: go see Women’s World Poetry Slam winner Andrea Gibson at the Cat in the Cream at 8 p.m., and I guarantee that you will leave with goosebumps, a grin and the burning desire to spin your thoughts into poetry.