Annual poetry slam gives writers expressive space

Poets in the popular imagination are often sulky, solitary creatures who wail in the night, bemoaning their fate. 

The poets who performed at Geneseo’s sixth annual poetry slam, Slam for a Cure, on Saturday March 31 are anything but these imagined moody individuals. They are friendly, creative people, with the courage to speak their truth to a crowd. 

Those involved have found a sense of community because of their membership in the Poets Society. Poets Society president and slam organizer senior William Antonelli encouraged this collaborative feeling throughout the night, and the informal atmosphere allowed for to speak who might not have otherwise.

That welcoming environment is no doubt why former Poets Society president and Geneseo alumna Pam Haas ‘17 returned to kick off the slam, reading a poem paralleling the seven days of creation in the Bible to her own story of maturation. She returned later upon cajoling from the crowd to read a second poem detailing her experiences with love.

“I’m honored to have been a part of Poets Society,” Haas said. “I was the president for two years, and now I’m being succeeded. I’m just so glad it’s staying alive.”

International relations major freshman Kazon Robinson was welcomed as one of Geneseo’s rising poets on-campus. His poems detail his own personal experiences growing up as a young black man in the United States and explore his relationship with happiness. Kazon will be the treasurer of Poets Society next year. 

“As a young man, I always loved poetry,” Robinson said. “I feel like poetry is not only a way to express myself, but express my perspective on America and on the political and cultural landscape of the country.”

The next poet, undeclared freshman Wen Jing Jiang, is the future vice president. Jiang read two poems. The first addressed a lost friend whose relationship with the narrator still seems unfinished and confusing. The second poem described a fruit vividly without giving its name, resulting in a fun guessing game afterward—it was a durian. 

English major freshman Lara Mangino read a comedic poem about the moment Kylie Jenner inspired a meme by guessing that the pig in her mother’s arms was a chicken. The poem also managed to discuss the way reality television affects its young stars. 

Antonelli presented his poems next, which were poignantly delivered and rang with love and clarity. The first was about when his mother was in a hospital and how it impacted him.

The second explored precious memories of his father and reflected on the odd experience of one’s parents aging. After that, Antonelli delivered a love poem about the subject’s habit of speaking with their hands.

The future president of Poets Society, geography and creative writing double major sophomore Ryan Mathers, followed. His poems were detailed explorations of singular thoughts and included vivid descriptions.

During the event, there was also a fundraising aspect. Slam for a Cure had an admission fee to raise money for Relay For Life and offered raffle prizes for attendees. 

 “For the first time ever, our slam was in support of a charity,” Antonelli said. “In all we raised almost $100 for Relay For Life, which is more than a lot of fundraisers do, so we’re very happy about that.”

The Geneseo Relay For Life representatives also seemed very happy with the result, as even just $10 can provide a ride for a cancer patient to treatment, according to Colleges Against Cancer president senior Grace Rowan. 

All in all, it was an evening filled with support and encouragement, and showcased some of the campus’s most talented writers.