Verbal Blend empowers students through spoken word at Take the Mic poetry slam

Eleven students compete to be top poet in skill, presence and content at Verbal Blend's 6th annual poetry competition.

One mic: one voice.

Those four words rang supreme in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications’ Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium on Friday night as 11 student poets took part in Verbal Blend’s sixth annual Take the Mic Poetry Slam. Each student read or recited poetry with purveying themes discussing relationships and past love, body image and sexual assault, racism and micro/macroaggressions.

“Coming to events like this will inspire me to start writing again.”
Deynaba Farah

Judges scored each poet — Hayley Bermel, Nissy Selmon, Anjelique Cooley, Lyrical Faith, Fernliketheplant, Cole Smith, Iris the Flower, Marius Johnson, Kenny Buckner, Chirag "Cheech" Manohar and Alexa Guzman — on a 10-point scale based on originality, stage presence, content and delivery.

Audience members were encouraged to show exactly what they thought of the judges’ scores — those including international relations senior Gabby Evans; writing graduate student Chad Seader; Boland Hall residential assistant Elizabeth Ogundare; Janklow Arts leadership masters studentMariah Scott; and Tiffany Gray, interim director of the LGBTQ Resource Center — at times snapping their fingers in appreciation for a high score and at other times booing lower numbers.

Emotions ran high throughout the evening, as a large crowd rapidly switched from laughing at a unique delivery and flicking away tears from a poignant line. Occasionally nervous laughter rang out; at other times the air sucked from the room as students told raw, relatable stories within each word.

“I was told that personal experience makes the best stories,” one poet said, before she read her own.

A DJ named DJ, otherwise known as DJ Squared, spun tunes in between each performance while hosts Aneisha “Neish” Goffin, a senior studying education, and Demarquez “Black” Grissom, a junior studying education, interspersed playful commentary to get the crowd involved.

After a brief intermission, Hayley Bermel, Lyrical Faith, Cole Smith, Marius Johnson, Kenny Buckner and Cheech Manohar moved on to the next round for the shot at the top three.

The emotions in the room were palpable.

“I like how everyone put something else personal into their poems. And even if it wasn’t, you could feel as if it was by the way they embraced it and put themselves into the words,” said Veronica Atkins, a senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in midtown Manhattan, New York City, who came out to support a friend.

The winners were information studies freshman Buckner; design senior Jackson; and drama senior Manohar.

Several of the student performers were a part of a seminar-style humanities course within the Renee Crown Honors College — HNR 240: Poetry for the People — taught by Cedric Bolton, the organizer of the event and coordinator of student engagement in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The class performed their poems on Monday night, Dec. 7, at the Jabberwocky Cafe.

Beyond the participants of the slam, audience members gleaned inspiration for their own poetry from being in the creative atmosphere.

“I write my own poetry; I’ve been trying to write lately but it hasn’t been going well,” said Deynaba Farah, a junior studying social work and member of Verbal Blend. Friday’s event was her first slam. “Coming to events like this will inspire me to start writing again.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.