“Everyone’s a winner” at Poetry Slam

By Andrea Currie

News Editor

There was a prize for each contestant at the Hudson Valley Poetry Slam on Oct. 29, but that wasn’t how it was planned. The event, originally scheduled for Oct. 15, was postponed because of low interest. On Oct. 29, fewer than a dozen people attended, including the judges and the participants.

At 5 p.m., three students were waiting outside the BTC auditorium, confused by the conflicting start times advertised for the event. Most promotional materials said 5:30, but others said 5:00.

Rebecca Catelli, a biological sciences major, carried a poem that she had written for the competition. She said that she’d been thinking about autumn and wanted to write a poem that described the season as a whole. She said she’d written the poem in a day. “It was simply putting the words in the right places,” said Catelli.

Two students, Kate LeBlanc, individual studies major, and Emily McFetris, a human services major, were both there to watch the event. LeBlanc had seen the event advertised in the Hudson Valley student handbook, and McFetris had intended to go to the event on its originally scheduled date. LeBlanc had texted her the revised flyer.

The students moved into the auditorium, noting the expanse of empty seats. Wendi Farrington, who had written her poem for an English course taught by assistant professor Dr. Megeen Mulholland, said, “I think I might be the only person reading.”

At 5:20 p.m., three more students walked in. Joseph Colon, a theater arts major and Black and Latino Student Union member, had heard about the poetry slam from the student senate Vice President, My’Asia Colon, who did not attend the event.

“I don’t write poetry, but I thought it’d be something fun,” he said. He was going to read a poem he’d written.

Kilijah Crumpler, a business major, said he’d tried to write a poem for the poetry slam. “It got too detailed and graphic and it didn’t work out,” he said.

Richell Matias, a business major, said that she and Crumpler were there to support Colon. Both had poems with them, but Crumpler declined to read, saying to Colon, “I don’t want to take your award away from you!”

Around 5:30 p.m., just after Crumpler had said, “So where’s the popcorn?” student senate president Grace Harrison entered and announced that there were sweets outside, and the audience eagerly went into the hallway for cookies, brownies, and soft drinks.

When the audience reconvened, student treasurer, Fanny Motey adjusted and tested the onstage microphone. Motey, Harrison, and Louis Coplin, Director of Student Life, were the poetry slam’s judges. When Coplin arrived, Harrison told him, “There’s just three of them, so everyone gets a prize. Everyone’s a winner.”

First place was a $100 gift card to the Viking Cove bookstore, second place was a $50 gift card to the bookstore, and third place was two free movie tickets.

Contestants were judged on presentation, style, and content, according to Grace Harrison, Student Senate President. “Whoever’d like to start can come on up,” she said.

Farrington volunteered. “I was really just doing this for extra credit,” she said as she walked to the stage. She read her poem, “Gray,” a series of evocative images describing the narrator’s love, and finished to a chorus of snapping fingers and cries of “You did so good! That was really good!”

Colon read second. He said, “This is dedicated to somebody that broke my heart,” and then read his poem, “Forget Love,” which referenced song lyrics in its denunciation of love. The audience snapped its fingers for him, too.

Catelli read last. Her poem, “Autumn: A Season of Remembrance” was more prosaic in style than Colon’s and Farrington’s pieces. As she had said, the poem listed many things autumnal, from impending hibernation to the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, which occurred four days after the scheduled event.

After the audience finished snapping its fingers for Catelli, Motey read Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” onstage.

Around 5:50, while the judges were conferring, a student walked into the auditorium.

“Are you going to read a poem?” asked Harrison.

“No, I was just going to … watch,” said the student, sitting down. She had come just in time to hear the prizes being announced. She said she was attending for extra credit.
“First of all, we were very impressed. Those were lovely poems. Thank you all for reading,” said Harrison. She announced the prizes in reverse order: Farrington, whose poem I had favored to win, came in third. Catelli came in second. Colon took first place.

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