Bust a rhyme

Holly Leske

“I kill cars the way Charlie Sheen killed his career.”

The crowd gathered at Cottonwood Coffee on April 13, burst into a fit of laughter. But this wasn’t a comedy club night, or a roast of Charlie Sheen. This was an unofficial poetry slam, where contestants performed their poetry in spoken-word fashion.

The informal competition, which featured several rounds of contestants each performing a new poem, highlighted topics from penguins’ mating patterns, a letter to Dante Alighieri, author of the 14th century poem, “The Divine Comedy,” and a poem on how one contestant “kills” cars.

Jade Metzger, who has been involved with the Brookings community theatre, is a graduate student in the communications and theatre department and self-proclaimed “hostess with the mostest,” organized the event with help from Cottonwood coffee.

A veteran of poetry and an advocate of slam, Metzger began writing poetry at six years old and was published at age seven. Later she was on the speech team during college and eventually fell in love with spoken-word poetry. When she came to Brookings, she could not believe it did not have an organized poetry slam venue yet.

“There’s not a lot of venues for adults to compete, so this is a way for adults to get competitive and creative,” she said.

Slam, Metzger said, is a huge benefit for the community, artists and anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

“It serves at least two purposes for people [and artists]. One, it brings people together — people who like poetry [and] writing. It gives them a place to gather. Two, it forces you to continually rewrite poetry,” said Metzger.

Jessica Strending, a reader at the Friday night poetry slam has the same kind of connection with poetry as Metzger, but fell in love with slam when she heard poet Shane Koyczan perform the poem “Apology.”

“I felt like he wrote it for me almost,” she said. “It just connected.

From then on Strending found a home in slam poetry despite it being different from the academic poetry she studied in college.

“The poetry that’s really esteemed by a lot of academics is the poetry that’s for the page. [In slam] it’s OK if you do silly puns, it’s OK if you want to write a poem about your favorite drink Dr. Pepper or being a penguin like I did. That’s what I love about it.”

The crowd reflected the contestants’ enthusiasm with laughter or snapping, a way of showing that they really connect with what the poet is saying. The audience is a huge part of slam poetry, with audience participation and interaction really influencing how a poem is performed.

With the first poetry slam deemed a success, Metzger said she’d like to continue the slam event throughout the coming months. In order for this to happen, she hopes to receive grant money to keep the event afloat and to provide a cash prize for the winner. Also, she said increasing student interest is necessary to keep the event fresh.

“Ideally, I would love to have this be something that we do every single month,” she said.