Inter-Varsity Poetry Slam 2015

March 20, 2015 – Culture
Inter-Varsity Poetry Slam 2015, 4th March, NCAD

Loving poetry, I was compelled to come to the first ever Inter-Varsity Poetry Slam. It was held between six Dublin (and Kildare) colleges – UCD, IADT, NCAD, TCD, NUIM and RSCI and hosted by my old college, NCAD. I write poetry, but I shrink away from the idea of performing in a poetry slam, having a difficulty in remembering words or producing the powerful rhythm needed for Slam. So I am in awe at the poets who stood up on the NCAD Concourse stage on Wednesday 4th March to speak out their poetry so forcefully and poignantly. Every single one of them is due congratulations for performing on stage to a huge crowd (for a poetry gig), with no sheet of paper or podium to hide behind.

The crowd was still and quiet. The atmosphere filled with seriousness and a sadness. The content of the poetry was such that my blood pumped with anger at times. Many of the poets voices were tingling with fury as they uttered their disappointment of contemporary society. Disappointment seemed to be an uncurated theme that ran through the Slam. Their spoken word reflected today’s society, particularly the difficulties that women face all their lives. ‘You’ by Leigh Ní Chathasaigh (NCAD), ‘The Old Timey Days’ by Alicia Byrne Keane (TCD) and ‘Second – hand Smoke’ by Dee Campbell (NUIM) particularly spoke about the ways women are perceived and treated.

Ní Chathasaigh speaking about one of her relationships describing it as ‘Always a threesome of you, me and alcohol’. Byrne Keane expressing the ‘pseudo liberality’ of her female friends and their distaste for feminism. Dee Campbell, the overall winner of the slam, with a voice trembling in anger spoke of rape, saying ‘You took my spark and turned it into second-hand smoke’. One of the guest poets Paul Curran, who has recently headlined his own show at Electric Picnic, spoke of life in inner city Dublin, in his poem ‘Four’. Speaking about a friend of his, who was killed because he fell through the gap in the system, Curran stated, ’20 years old, four bullets in his back’. These poets spoke with a proud ferociousness about things so difficult and so close to their heart, they silenced the audience. The question asked seemed to be as Byrne Keane put it in ‘The Old Timey Ways’, are we ‘deluding ourselves that stuff has changed’? The topics expressed in the poetry are difficult to unpack in a short review like this. The power of men over women and the power of alcohol and the social system over everyone are issues too ingrained in Irish society for me to do much justice to them here. However, it is refreshing to think that there are young contemporary poets willing to speak up. The powerful proclamations of all the poets left my friends and I soberly thoughtful, especially so, for the end of a BYOB event.

Spoken word events like this Slam can be so emotionally momentous because the poetry is not delivered like it is at a typical poetry reading. It is delivered at a pace just one stride short of rap. The momentum of each line of poetry is built up and up,  the poets pushing their breaths to the last dregs, before they gasp briefly and continue on yet again. This type of reading is not gravelly and slow like the kind Robert Frost would give. This type of reading is vibrant and quick, it pushes and pushes at the boundaries of the human speech. Spoken word poetry mostly rhymes, which is something different from modern poetry, which shied away from it. The poets move as well, gesturing their arms and hands, performing their feelings out. Spoken word is all about the feeling, there is no holding back. At this year’s Inter-Varsity Poetry Slam there was no holding back and the poets stunned the audience.

Other spoken word poets who caught my ear on the night were Ruth Emmanuel, Raneem Saleb and Stephen James Smith.  Though the majority of the poetry on the night was quite somber there were some amusing and quirky pieces and the MC James Moran kept the atmosphere up beat during the acts. As I said the overall winner was Dee Campbell. She was presented with the hand-made trophy designed by Halfbeard Creations, which is a bizarre celebration of the mouth, teeth and tongue. It is the perfect way to honor a poetry slam champion. The night was a complete success and I hope that it will continue as an event for years to come.

For more information on the Inter-Varsity Poetry Slam visit their facebook or their website

Words: Roisin Power Hackett