The College Programming Board made themselves busy in Friends Hall on Friday preparing for their Slam Poetry event.
“I completely forgot about this bad mamma-jamma,” junior Chris Cortez said, lugging a speaker across the room. At the back of the hall, others were laying out refreshments upon a table for guests’ enjoyment, while another adjusted the on-stage microphone.
Participants and audience members began to drift in, seating themselves in the chairs aligned before the stage. While the audience would be an active one throughout the event – calling out words of encouragement and snapping their fingers – the total number of attendees was relatively low, a fact Cortez attributed to poor advertising.
The event was a contest, judged by audience members who had not competed themselves. Two winners would be chosen by the end of the night, each receiving a $50 gift card and the opportunity to perform at an upcoming CPB event. The poets and rappers who performed were each unique in that none of the contestants' work could be mistaken for another’s.
One rap was a social commentary, written from the perspective of a monster, while another was a wistful description of an ex-girlfriend. The poems performed were based upon similar themes, many centered upon past loves, while others dealt with the respective performers’ frustrations with contemporary society.
The winners of the contest were students Kenya Hilton and Tiffany Phillips-Maxwell. Phillips-Maxwell, a junior, had prefaced her poem by stating that this was her first time performing in front of an audience. "This is my first time ever," she said. "I always write at home, just to be funny … my boyfriend is actually a rapper and a really, really strong well-known poet.”
While the quality of Phillips-Maxwell’s winning poem was undeniable, her performance was entirely serendipitous. Unaware of the Slam Poetry event, she had gone to Friends’ Hall with a classmate.
The co-winner, Hilton, only had to pause momentarily before reading her poems aloud. “I write poetry, and I like poetry, so I didn’t have a hard time deciding whether to do it or not. I knew I wanted to do it.” Upon receiving her gift card, Hilton decided to take CPB’s offer and perform at their next event.