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UConn Poetic Release hosts poetry slam

By Matt Gantos
On January 27, 2014

It's hard to understand why judges are even necessary at a slam poetry reading, but last night's poetry slam put on by UConn's Poetic Release club decided that they would create an interesting dynamic.
They are only a few of the many audience members crammed into the back of the brand new Co-op bookstore in Storrs Center, with no real say in what makes one writer better than another.
Certainly, the writers themselves don't care. Praise is encouraged. Cheering on friends who might be performing is facilitated by putting a rating to a performance. But to performer Zach Johnson, "it doesn't mean anything."
"They just happened to be scores that were, ya know, tallied up." Johnson said. "It doesn't mean that I'm better than anyone else up there tonight, you can't even measure that."
There also seemed to be a consensus going around that scores, however nice it might feel to get '10s' across the board, didn't matter as much as getting the message and the words out there to the audience.
According to Emmanuel Oppong, "It's about getting your message out there, all of us writers have something we want to share. If the audience gets a hint of starting to understand what we mean then we've accomplished something."
The audience was comprised mostly of friends and family of performers who came out to support their favorite aspiring writers. Others came for their daily dose of wisdom or simply to experience a viewpoint other than the one most tangible to them.
What makes an audience of a slam poetry performance different than that of a poetry book is the art of performance. Words on a page can be powerful by themselves if used correctly, but words spoken with a certain charisma and style are what really engage the audience.
According to Kevin Coval, host of the event, "This is an ancient form of theatre, so I think it is meant to be heard as much as it's meant to be read."
Johnson and Oppong were two of the most dynamic of the night in terms of performance, which really brought their words to the audience's attention. But there are other means of doing so.
Performer Pamela Achuka used the innate power of words to really make sure the audience was listening, in one example using vulgarity. Vulgarity itself holds so many connotations that it is hard to imagine something vulgar being anything other than a put down.
Achuka uses the power vulgar words to suggest that others who try to use them to hurt her cannot do so but rather she is proud of herself and that she knows who she is.
Understanding who you are is something that Coval believes deeply in. A veteran slam poet himself, Coval demonstrated true appreciation for a budding generation of writers and what they can do for the entire scene in terms of self-identification and understanding the human condition.
Poetic Release holds slam poetry readings regularly and encourages everyone who has an interest in the art to nourish that interest and support the talented writers that live right here in Storrs.

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