This past Tuesday night I attended the UBC Slam Finals. For those of you unfamiliar with what a Slam is, it has nothing to do with wrestling. It is a poetry competition where poets perform their own original work to an audience where judges award them scores. However, since Slam Poetry is so unique and varied between performers, there isn’t a right way for me to explain it. So, here’s is an example of a Slam poem. Here, I’ll let give you time to watch the video. Also, if you’re wondering what the rules of a Slam are please go here.
Okay, cool. The winner of the Slam gets to rep UBC Slam in the Canadian Individual Poetry Slam. The poets were required to have three poems prepared, so that means three rounds, of varying time limits. One, two, and three minutes to be exact. I could write a review of my thoughts on the night but a power rankings sounds much more fun. Quick note, I’m cool with every one who performed on Tuesday, so like everything on FBF, I try to be as fair as possible with a healthy dose of subjectivity. How am I calculating the rankings? I don’t have a formula developed but I am a committee of one and will not be swayed by the comments below. The things I am looking for in no specific order:
- HP, attack, defense, special attack, special defense, and speed. Half kidding.
- Diva potential.
- I know slams are about the words and not the score but scores do have a say here (we’re competitive, we can’t help it).
- Overall ability to throw down.
Without further ado I present you (what I think is) the first ever UBC Slam Power Rankings. The list is in reverse order. Last thing, this list is in no way official, don’t take it too seriously, it’s for fun. Enjoy.
4. Heather Gunn “The Bald Badass Bitch”
Unfortunately because of class Heather was unable to compete on Tuesday. Another classic example of school getting in the way of your education in life. How dare it. Even though she was unable to compete, she has been around UBC Slam the entire year and her contribution cannot be overlooked. The self proclaimed, “Bald Badass Bitch” can throw down. She speaks with conviction, wears her emotions on her face, and takes no prisoners on stage. She stands by her words and ideas and I’m sure she would be the first one to shout them from the roof tops or kick some dumb boy in the shin who challenged them. Nicole and her would get along great. Unfiltered, unafraid, and unapologetic – it is a shame that she didn’t get to perform. She would’ve killed it, unfortunately since she didn’t, I can’t have her higher.
3. Emma Saddy “Boxes Girl”
Emma finished with a cumulative score of 66.2. The three poems she performed were (from one minute to three minutes): Train Tracks, Apology to my Sister, and Epiphanaries. I talked to Emma after the performance and she told me that she has never been so stressed about a slam in her life. Not saying this fact was super apparent, like she looked like she was going to pass out but I wouldn’t say she looked super comfortable either. However, as the rounds progressed she did seem to get more comfortable. I enjoy the topics and subject matter she writes about; in fact I relate more to her poems than the other two performers on Tuesday. It is evident she finds that uncomfortable part of her belly where guilt, shame, and regret live and is able to turn it into words. Her strengths lie in her ability to set scenes and immerse the audience in them and focus on a singular emotion. It feels like she is still trying to gain confidence both as a writer and a performer. Her language is the most simple compared to the other poets, but this is not a bad thing.
2. Ivan Leonce “The Black Guy Who Throws Down”
Ivan finished with a cumulative score of 68.1. The three poems he performed were: Apparitions, Thinking in Colour, and Little Mermaid. Ivan has such a bubbly personality that when he takes the stage it is disarming – his smile makes an audience melt. Out of the three performers he has the most natural stage presence, it does not demand your attention, rather, it seems natural that he would be at the center of the room. Out of the four poets I think Ivan has the smoothest cadence and rhythm, the words roll of his tongue and kiss your ears. His poems rely heavily on alliteration and assonance, which help this sensation of effortlessness but it never overwhelms you. He does a good job of taking his life experiences and making them relatable to others. At the same time he does not over preach his messages in his poems, he performs them and you take what you want from them.
1. Sebastien Wen “The Machine Gun Poet”
Sebastien finished with a cumulative score of 70. The three poems he performed were: Twenty-Six Gravestones, Ringing, and Beautiful. Out of the three performers it is evident Sebastien is most confident in his abilities as a performer. This was apparent as soon as he opened his mouth; he had the full control of his voice, in that he played with volume, cadence, and tone. Sebastien had that look, he brought it last night. His performances felt less like performances and more like proclamations; he was bold and hard hitting. You almost forgot about the words themselves and just focused on him. After the show it prompted me to refer to him as, “The Machine Gun Poet.” He came to win and he did just that. The champ is here.
It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – Nicole
It’s like we are on a courage binge this week. And I love it.
I’ve been to a few poetry slams as a spectator, where I got my snap on like nobody’s business, and I’m entirely convinced that you must be incredibly brave to perform. It seems to require a second level of guts, a higher quota of the stuff of bravery, a confident vulnerability, to march out onto that stage and pour your heart out to a crowd of mostly strangers. There’s an honesty inherent to speaking your own poem in public, to matching your voice to what your heart is doing, to pushing out the confidence, the shine, you know these words you have slaved over deserve – and that honesty is best friends with bravery. I can’t even begin to share the respect I have for people who rock slams. So instead I’ll just sip my tea, snap for their bravery, and applaud their courage.
Sometimes (often) I suck at courage, and I head to Brene Brown’s blog – Irving, you will love it. Settling in to watch her Super Soul Sunday is like drinking a Red Bull of inspiration. Her TED talk is a butt kick of the best kind. Oh, and, her second TED talk (I’m pretty sure you are doing everything right when TED invites you back) – it’s like downing an entire container of Nerds when you were a kid. It’ll fuel your heart like nothing else.