It is a rare occurrence for students to show up the faculty and be rewarded for it. But that is exactly what happened at the second Poetry Slam (hosted by the English Club) last Thursday in the Trojan Center Underground, much to the delight of a crowd that was at or close to being, as they say in sports, standing room only.
While the slam was largely marketed as a Students vs. Faculty, the English Club also added some clout by recruiting 2012 Omaha Slam Poet champion Zedeka Poindexter to share some of her poems dealing with personal health issues and family hardships. She also graciously filled the role of Master of Ceremonies, where she introduced each poet and worked the crowd to convey a fun atmosphere.
Before she performed, however, there was an open microphone period. By participating in this period, the three students chose not to be eligible for scoring as they shared their poems that largely served as reflections of themselves and/or the people close to them. By simply showing the courage to get up in front of an audience, they received gift certificates for local restaurants.
Once those two segments finished, it was time for the two-round war between the students and the faculty, with the top three from each team advancing into the second round.
The student team consisted of team captain Shane Whidby, Juan Valdez, Luke Neumann, Kyle Cosman, Amber Salas, Craig Sanden, and Gateka Verite, with Lina Peterson serving the role as the sacrificial (i.e. first) poet.
On the other side, the faculty All Star team consisted of DSU President David Borofsky, English professors Dr. Stacey Berry, the esteemed Dr. Justin Blessinger (Ed. note: It never hurts to praise the boss and secure the paycheck), and Dr. Carmela Lanza, Reference and Instruction Librarian Mary Francis, Math Center Coordinator Brenda Burger, and Diversity Coordinator Jennifer Aranda.
In an event that determines winners and losers, there needs to be judges. Poindexter picked five volunteers that consisted of students and Vice President for Student Affairs Jesse Kane. Throughout the night, perhaps coming as no surprise and a little disappointing, the student judges overwhelmingly favored the students over the faculty.
The students routinely received scores in the eights and nines (rounded to one decimal place) with a few tens from their peers. The faculty, no matter the quality of the poem, mostly received scores in the sixes and sevens, sometimes dropping as low as into the fives.
Perhaps the two most memorable poems came from Mary Francis and Shane Whidby. As the first faculty member to perform, Francis emphatically shed her library demeanor as she fired the opening shots at the students. Later on, Whidby played to the crowd by describing how proud he was to be a nerd (Ed. note: his characterization, not ours) who enjoys everything Star Wars and traversing around the land of Hyrule, which is the setting of the majority of the Nintendo series The Legend of Zelda.
By the time it was finished, the students won the two-hour event. Judging by the student reaction, it is safe to say that poetry slams will be an English Club staple for quite some time.
Featured graphic provided by Cody Welu of DSU Live