The Oberlin Review

Safia Elhillo Delivers Sharp, Candid Poetry Performance

Ananya Gupta, Arts and Culture Editor

September 15, 2017

Filed under ARTS, Literature & Poetry

“As usual, I was thinking about race; I wrote a poem.” said Sudanese-American performance poet Safia Elhillo as she delivered her sassy wit in a soothing voice last Friday at the Cat in the Cream. Author of the full-length poetry collection The January Children, Elhillo is an acclaimed slam poet who has performed at the South African State Theatre, the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, and at TEDxNewYork, and has competed nationally with the New York University collegiate championship slam poetry team and the DC Youth Slam Poetry Team. Having earned accolades including the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize (co-winner) and the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Elhillo, though young, is truly...

Smith’s Poetry a Bible Verse, Queer Anthem

Louise Edwards, Arts Editor

March 11, 2016

Filed under ARTS, Literature & Poetry

Slam Poet Danez Smith, hailing from St. Paul, MN, opened their performance at the Cat in the Cream Saturday with “Genesissy,” a piece that was part Bible verse, part hymn and part queer anthem. They balanced humorous lines like, “And on the tenth day, God wore a blood-red sequin body suit, dropped it low, named it Sunset,” with serious sentiments like “Jesus wept at the mirror, mourning the day his sons would shame his sons for walking a daughter’s stride.” Like a church service, Smith transitioned from reading their own recreation of the Bible to singing a mournful prayer: “I am on the battlefield for my Lord, for my Lord.” The dynamic textures of Smith’s work make it clear why Smith is a widely...

Johnson Converts Insults to Compliments in Poetry

Louise Edwards, Arts Editor

February 26, 2016

Filed under ARTS, Literature & Poetry

Editor’s note: This article contains a racial slur. Spoken word poet Janae Johnson opened her performance Saturday at the Cat in the Cream with a “basketball poem.” She filled the room with empowering lines: “She’ll be picked last, but she’ll outshoot the entire team” and “He mad — she on the sixth grade team as a fifth grader.” While slam poetry can often be emotionally draining because of its heavy themes, Johnson’s piece, which focused on the achievements of Black female athletes, set a tone of success and triumph. “She win,” the closing line of the poem, was a theme that resonated throughout the evening. Johnson herself has gained much recognition within the slam community. Original...

OSLAM Switches Focus with Love-Centric Slam

OSLAM Switches Focus with Love-Centric Slam

February 19, 2016

The night before Valentine’s Day, the Cat in the Cream filled with excited OSLAM fans. The large audience spilled onto the floor; friends huddled in from the cold with coffee and cookies. OSLAM is best known for its gripping political and emotional poetry, but the group’s Feb. 13 performance focused on love and positivity. In keeping with the romantic theme, the group also held a “Date a Poet” raffle where, for $1, audience members could win the chance to go on a friend date with their favorite...

OSlam Sponsors Kai Davis to Support Poets of Color

OSlam Sponsors Kai Davis to Support Poets of Color

October 2, 2015

OSlam, Oberlin’s slam poetry team and club will welcome writer and performer Kai Davis for a night of spoken word poetry Saturday night. Davis is a Creative Writing and African-American Studies major at Temple University, and her work has been featured at the San Francisco Opera House, The Kimmel Center, The Temple Performing Arts Center and on CNN. Additionally, the young poet was crowned the National Brave New Voices Grand Slam Champion in 2011 and ranked second in the nation at the Youth...

Feature Photo: OSlam

Feature Photo: OSlam

May 8, 2015

College sophomore Annika Hansteen Izora passionately delivers a spoken word poem at OSlam’s final slam showcase. The showcase was a cumulative display of all the hard work that OSlam members have invested in creating a repertoire of moving, powerful poetry. Poets reprised old favorites and presented fresh material at the event, which took place in Third World lounge on Friday at 8 p.m. The team has emphasized the importance of giving precedence to marginalized voices, including but not limited...

Feature Photo: Slam Poetry Duo Performs at Cat

Feature Photo: Slam Poetry Duo Performs at Cat

November 7, 2014

Sister Outsider, the slam poetry stage name of Dominique Christina and Denice Frohman, performed at the Cat in the Cream on Sunday as part of a tour of U.S. colleges. Both performers are recent winners of the Women of the World Poetry Slam competition and have won numerous other titles throughout their prolific careers. Christina and Frohman have found their niche in the overlap between the arts and social activism; the duo regularly speaks at universities and other community centers to raise awareness...

Slam Poetry Gains Momentum on Campus

Vida Weisblum, Arts Editor

October 10, 2014

Filed under ARTS, Features, Literature & Poetry

Oberlin’s student-run slam poetry organization, known as OSlam!, is undergoing a critical transformation to manage an overwhelming interest in slam poetry on campus. Last year’s OSlam! participants began auditions Thursday to select finalists for eight additional spots on their performance team, and will continue the process tonight. While the OSlam! club, which meets on Monday evenings to workshop poems and performance, will remain open to all writers, this exclusive performance team will appear at events on campus, collaborate with other student organizations and travel to the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. OSlam! is involved in the slam poetry movement, which first became popular in the 1990s. The...

Slam Poets Deliver Honest, Moving Performances in Accessible Environment

Slam Poets Deliver Honest, Moving Performances in Accessible Environment

April 25, 2014

As the lights dimmed, the excited chatter of faculty and students filled the tiny Lord Lounge in anticipation of Oberlin’s OSlam! Poetry Showcase on Tuesday, April 22. Three illuminated microphones sat in wait for performers. Abruptly, the chatter burst into explosive applause as the group members appeared on stage and the show began. Part of Oberlin’s slam poetry group’s mission involves creating a space where art can be shared and accessible in a safe environment, a goal which it definitely...

Slam Poet Inspires Self-Love, World Change at the Cat

Julia Hubay, Arts Editor

May 4, 2012

Filed under ARTS, Literature & Poetry

As people began to stream into Sonya Renee’s performance at the Cat last Saturday, every chair was quickly filled, and even the floor was packed before the poet and activist began. The evening kicked off with an open mike show featuring some talented students, and then at 9 p.m. Renee took the stage dressed in a vibrant, citrus-colored dress and perched atop six inch coral heels. She began by establishing an informal rapport with the audience, joking about the weather and the inappropriateness of her showing up to the Cleveland airport in sandals and a sundress. Then, to increase the energy in the room, Renee had the audience participate in a call-and-response session with chants about self-love and poetry. The...

Snaps to That: The State of Slam Poetry at Oberlin

Abby Hawkins, Arts Editor

October 14, 2011

Filed under ARTS, Literature & Poetry

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...

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