Slam poetry comes to Western

Teacher and poet Taylor Mali performed his spoken word poetry Wednesday evening, September 27, as a part of Last Minute Production’s spoken word series. Mali was one of the original poets who appeared on “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry,” and appeared in the 1997 documentary film “Slam Nation.” Mali, a New York native, has also led six of his seven national poetry slam teams to the finals, and has won the championship record four times. The night opened with a handful of Western students performing spoken word poems written by themselves and by others. The opening slot went to Jordan Brophy, a sophomore at Western, who performed two original poems titled “I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed general,” and “Ginsberg, Give me back my heart.” Brophy won the opportunity to open for Mali by winning a poetry slam held the previous week in Cyber Café. “I think the main thing that draws me to slam poetry is that it’s making poetry cool again,” said Brophy after the poetry slam. “It’s okay to be a poet; to, you know, sit in a coffee shop and let the words run over you. Another thing is that it connects our generation with our repressed artistic side through [slam poetry’s] ferocity. We are an in-your-face generation, so what better place to be than on a stage slamming our hearts and souls?” Mali performed several of his well-known poems, including “What Teachers Make,” “Like Lilly, Like Wilson,” and “The impotence of proofreading.” If you are one of the many that have never seen a poetry slam, you may be wondering what a slam is. Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry that usually occurs within a competitive event called a slam. Poets perform their own poems and are judged by randomly selected audience members. The criteria that they are judged on include not only the literary content, but the performance as well. Poetry slams can also be non-competitive gatherings of poets sharing their work and the work of others. Poetry slam began in 1984 when construction worker and poet Marc Smith started a poetry reading at the Get Me High lounge, a jazz club in Chicago. Smith was trying to bring life to the open mike night format. Two years later Smith started a weekly poetry competition at Green Mill, another Chicago jazz club, which started the Uptown Poetry Slam that still runs every Sunday night to this day.