Although the Geneseo Poets’ Society has been versing for four years, this semester is its first as an officially recognized on-campus organization. The poets perform in venues like Muddy Waters Coffee House on Main Street and the KnightSpot, where they recently hosted a two-and-a-half hour-long poetry marathon.
“We had this sort of quasi slam and spoken word poetry on campus and I wanted to foster that and grow it into something bigger,” said junior Patrick “Patches” Burke, president of the Geneseo Poets’ Society.
According to Burke, there is a distinction to be made between slam poetry and spoken word poetry. “Spoken word is the art form [within a] community and getting up on a stage and presenting either your work or someone else’s work in the really engaging, unique-to-spoken-word format,” said Burke. “It’s really high energy and really intimate. Slam is the competition aspect of spoken word poetry,” he said.
The Geneseo Poets’ Society holds weekly meetings where members perform spoken word poetry written by Geneseo poets or famous spoken word poets. The poets also hold workshops in which they work on original poetry performances.
Along with its weekly meetings, the group focuses on performing in poetry competitions. On Tuesday April 18, poets from the society traveled to La Verne University in California to compete in the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational, hosted by the Association of College Unions International. Forty-eight teams from around the country competed in the invitational.
“The people are fantastic,” Burke said. “Everyone is very open-hearted and open-minded. I’ve never seen a more diverse group of people in an auditorium together watching people perform. Even our own group is diverse.”
Many spoken word poetry showcases and competitions include various forms of audience interaction such as hooting, hollering, snapping and clapping.
“One of the main differences between [performing] poetry and other art forms like acting is the audience interaction,” Burke said.
“Another thing that makes spoken word poetry different from every other art form is the getting up on stage and being brave enough to share yourself with your audience,” he said. “A lot of the time what poets write about is extremely personal.”
“What’s most important is [to] forget what everyone else says and do what’s right for you,” Burke said. “I couldn’t write any other way.”