Students by day, slam poets by night

Matthew Swanick / Staff Photographer

By Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer

Many of us, whether we like to admit it or not, are dealing with some sort of mental dilemma. While many choose to reveal their struggles behind closed doors, some feel that expressing these feelings in a public setting is most effective when learning to move on. In order to give students the opportunity for their voices to be heard, USM hosted a slam poetry night in Lower Brooks on the Gorham campus on March 6. This attracted both students and faculty alike.

Matthew Swanick / Staff Photographer

Students were able to sign up for reading sessions prior to the event in which they were able to read up to three poems. The event was originally supposed to feature a reading from the national slam poetry champion Katie Wirsing; unfortunately, she was unable to make it to the venue.

Over the past few years, slam poetry has become increasingly popular throughout schools across the country. Recently, the medium has become even more notorious, specifically because the poetry tackles social dilemmas and issues that for many are hard to swallow. These topics usually relay a personal problem which can include domestic violence, trans rights, mental health awareness, self-love and feminism. People have been realizing its potential and it has integrated itself into more and more practices.

The event featured a variety of works. Many of the presenters were students that were looking to receive credit for reading their work on the stage. These students were in a poetry unit for their creative writing class at the time. Many of the student poets had only been writing since they began the unit in class, which made their talents all the more impressive.

Photo by Matthew Swanick, Staff Photographer

It seems that the students who read their work were attracted to the art due to its overall tone and presence. Student author Dominick discovered a liking to the art in his creative writing class. Dominick said that the overall personality involved in the work is what attracted him to the craft.

Similarly, another student named Kevin was also drawn into the craft after their professor introduced it to them. Kevin stated that the form of literature was full of action and meaning, which was a unique outlet of expression to him. One of Kevin’s poems titled “Move-in Day” focused on the issues of a classman adjusting to a new living space. Although Kevin and Dominick were performing for class credit, they both had a powerful and expressive voice that resonated with the audience.

The event concluded with several readings from a campus employee. Sodexo employee Travis Gauvin gained interest in the event after seeing a flier in the USM dining hall. Since he has been writing poetry for over four years, it seemed like a calling to him. Even though he had only started performing in venues the summer prior, he possessed a barreling voice that demanded to be heard.

A couple of the students at the event felt similarly. They said that Gauvin had a very strong stage presence. Due to Wirsing’s absence, there was some extra time available for presentations, in which Gauvin took the opportunity after being encouraged by the audience. Gauvin’s poems included topics like domestic abuse and walking the line between friends and lovers. He believes that slam poetry can be an essential step in learning to deal with past trauma. “We all have moments in life that we suppress forever,” Gauvin said. Gauvin said that poetry has helped him deal with the troubled relationship he has with his father since he is able to open up to a variety of people who are sometimes those dealing with similar issues. Even though the poems bring up painful memories, the act of expression helps him move on from past events.

Overall, the poets portrayed a powerful presence which dealt with a variety of issues and situations. Members of the audience felt that the poets expressed a powerful presence that was accompanied by works that almost rivaled them. Although Wirsing wasn’t able to attend, the event was still prevalent with many student and employee voices that drew an audience. The event showcased an effective therapeutic method that will only increase in popularity in the future.


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