Night of poetry draws attention to an overlooked art


Alyssa Knutson

Micaiah Christopher performed his poem entitled “Spoken Word 2: Electric Boogaloo

Bethany Reeves

Poets rarely advertise their work. They don’t often draw a crowd as they craft their lines and stanzas, and they don’t stand on the sidewalk to shout it at passers-by. Their close friends might know they write, but poetry tends to be a subtle art.

However, on Friday, Nov. 2, dozens of people gathered at the Powell Library to hear some poets who are part of the TMU community. That night, 13 students performed original poems, along with three guest poets. It was a contest, with prizes for first, second, third and fourth place, as determined by the audience.

In the warmly lit room, a violin trio set the mood, while chatter from the audience filled the background. John Stone, library director, began the program by sharing the background of the event. Now in its fourth year, the Master’s University Poetry Slam was born out of a dream that Professor Jim Owen had. It would provide an avenue for students to express their creativity in ways other than those already offered at the university.

Bethany Reeves
Programs for the event listed the names of the poets and their works.

“At the heart of it, we wanted students to see Christ expressed in the talents and gifts they had, in creative ways, through poetry,” Stone said.

Stone shared that in a fast-paced, visual culture like ours, it’s rare to slow down and listen.

“This poetry is an auditory experience,” Stone said. “This is all about listening.”

A microphone and podium were set up at the front of the room, and the poets read from a copy of their poem. Before sharing their poems, the students were asked to provide some context for the work. In a few sentences, many shared the circumstances surrounding them as they wrote the poem, or what inspired their work.

“This poem has to do with the battle, especially as a believer, that I go through with writing,” Nate Rodriguez, a senior communication major, shared about his poem entitled “Drunk with Metaphors”. “It can kind of control you. You can turn to it at times when you shouldn’t, when you should turn to God instead.”

These poems, written by individuals about specific moments in their lives, were still able to resonate with a diverse audience.

“It’s a metaphor, so it means something to me,” Becky Simmons, a sophomore history major, said of her poem “The Moon”. “It doesn’t have to mean the same thing to you. In fact, I’d be pretty creeped out if it meant the same thing to you.”

The students that shared spanned several different majors. While the English and communication departments were represented, there were students studying history, computer science, accounting, and music, among others. The styles of the different poems also varied, with some being strictly rhymed and metered, and others were less structured and more free-verse.

Some poems were boisterously funny. Others seemed ironic. Many were heartfelt, and more than one poet admitted that they were nervous to share their work.

“It was terrifying,” Simmons said. “I don’t know if it was worse having people there that I liked, because I didn’t know if they’d think my poetry was any good. I just had to realize that if I was going to do this, it would be, for me, going out of my comfort zone.”

The decision seemed to pay off for Simmons, who shared two different poems at the event. Her work came in third place at the contest, winning her a $10 cash prize. The other winners were Harrison Brown, in fourth place, Micaiah Christopher, in second place, and Jason Schiewe, who won first place. In addition, there was a special Judge’s Award given to Nathan Kirkland.

Christopher, who was the first-place winner of last year’s Poetry Slam, shared a spoken word piece. With red-tinted round glasses and a flat cap worn backwards, the computer science major asked the audience to refer to him by his stage name, “Xanax the Stoic.”

The name was drawn from the Stoics, a Greek school of philosophy which taught a mindset of not letting external circumstances control you, and Xanax, a medicine prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders.

“As I put it, ‘just accept fate, and you’ll be chill,’” Christopher said. “I see him as the voice of our generation. He focuses on political commentary and social commentary. I think he’s vital for us, because he homes in on where the true battle lies.”

First-place winner Jason Schiewe, a freshman in Waldock, entitled his poem, “Lunch: The Perilous Whiles of a Glutton.” With expressive eyebrows raised over his dark-rimmed glasses, his voice crescendoed as he spoke.

“Essentially, one night, I had an assignment in sophomore English, in high school,” the business marketing major said about his poem. “I was seized by a fit of passion and craving for an egg and onion sandwich, so I wrote about it.”

Through the poems that were shared, the audience was drawn in to the words they were hearing.

“You don’t really know people, but then they say all of this poetry, and you’re like, ‘That’s inside your brain,’” said Esther Kuiper, a liberal studies major. “I love poetry. I love the depth of humans. People always share their depth when they write poetry.”

John Stone summarized this year’s program.

“There was a sense of richness of content to me. I think the audience resonated well with what they heard,” Stone said.

Stone also encouraged students to come out and share their poetry whenever such opportunities presented themselves.

“Explore the gifts you have. Not only for your own benefit, but I think the opportunity falls to bless other people in the process. Seize the opportunity.”