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black box poetry slam

The return of the Black Box Poetry Slam

The annual Black Box Poetry Slam came back to campus with a vengeance this spring — marking its 23rd appearance at YVC.

“Slam isn’t your grandpa’s poetry, even though plenty of grandpas do it! It’s not all angry poetry either,” explains former longtime event organizer and English Instructor Mark Fuzie. “The time limit is what keeps the show moving.”

According to Fuzie, the origins of slam poetry and the time limit come from Chicago. Original organizers thought anyone could listen to three minutes of bad poetry, so the time limit grew.

“While most early slammers drew inspiration from the beat poets, nowadays people draw from everywhere, hip-hop and rap, Spanglish or Calo, accents and rhythms from native languages, and really, as many Englishes there are, there are that many kinds of slam poetry. Slam also defies print, that is, if you try to write it out, you lose some of the performance aspects. It’s just a lot of fun,” he continued.

ABOVE: Participants rate poets during the 23rd Black Box Poetry Slam held in YVC's Raymond Hall Library in April. TOP: First prize winner Rod Nelson reads his poem.

Originally held in Kendall Hall’s Black Box theatre, this year’s event switched venues and was hosted in the Raymond Hall Library. The event drew 35 attendees, with 12 slammers competing for a cash prize of $133. First prize went to Yakima renowned spoken word poet Rod Nelson. This is the second time Nelson has garnered a first-place finish in the competition. Second prize was awarded to local journalist and YVC alum Emily Goodell. Participating in her first ever poetry slam, community member Jill Calahan earned a third-place finish.

Reference Librarian Sam Faulk was the designated “sacrificial poet”, a term reserved for a non-competing poet who reads in-between rounds.

“It’s always nerve-wracking to read first,” said Faulk. “But I amped up the audience with my first ever slam poems.”

English Instructor Margaret France was the MC of the night and entertained the audience with haikus while the judges tallied points. Faulk’s mother event joined in the event providing home baked cookies.

“All in all, it was a slamming night! The library looks forward to hosting the event again,” continued Faulk.