Senior Ingamar Ramirez is a poet, but not in the conventional sense. He won't be seen shyly reciting lines to a respectfully quiet audience of friends. Rather, you'll find him in front of a hefty crowd, shouting and begging them to channel his emotions and energy. Ramirez is a slam poet.
"Slam poetry resurrects poetry as a live form of entertainment," Ramirez said, adding that its goal is to emotionally and intellectually impact audiences through content and delivery.
"I first got into slam poetry when I saw a close friend perform in the Union Ballroom … it changed my life," Ramirez said. Though not yet aware of the challenges it involved, Ramirez remembers wanting to get involved immediately.
Like acting, singing or public speaking, slam poetry requires a specialized set of skills that few possess; Ramirez said that he is no exception. "It took me a couple of years to know what I know now, [such as] how to perform, how to communicate through body language and how to write with such immense emotion that you reach every member of the audience," he said.
Ramirez has received encouragement from his fellow slam poets as well as from the Geneseo community at large. "The community is supportive and endearing like no other I've ever experienced," he said.
Ramirez said that he has made many close friends through his involvement with the team and even though slam competitions are just that – competitions – a mutual respect is always maintained. "There is an ethos among the veterans and critical writers of the community that credits poets regardless of their success," Ramirez said.
Constant support from the college community has been an important factor in Ramirez's participation in slam. College Union and Activities, Geneseo Late Knight, the Activities Commission and the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services have all helped to facilitate slam events on campus. They have helped sponsor slam by bringing some of the most talented traveling poets to campus and providing Geneseo's own slam poets with a place to perform.
Having participated in slam for two years now, Ramirez has had the chance to compete in events in Manhattan, and he occasionally performs at open mic nights at Muddy Waters Coffee House. His slam skills have even turned into songwriting and he is currently working with other musicians and multi-instrumentalists to create music based off of his poetry.
His involvement in slam has also led to personal change. "Slam has benefited my writing and performing skills, but has also made me a more open and positive person," he said.
Ramirez hopes to continue being a part of the slam world even after graduation. He said that after being so influenced by the art form, he cannot imagine ever abandoning it completely.
Ramirez highly encourages Geneseo students to check out slam for themselves. "The people in the community love you for who you are, for just being you, regardless of how known or successful you are. Just getting up there is an act of courage," he said.
Students interested in learning more about slam poetry can contact Ramirez or e-mail Deb Bertlesman at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more information.