After being accompanied to the front of the room by thunderous applause and cheering, the silence that fell across the audience should have been deemed uncomfortable, but it only masked the excitement of the crowd and the nerves of the competitor about to perform. The poet took a deep breath, and despite appearing shaky, spoke with a clarity and confidence that forced their words deeper into the audience’s understanding.
On Nov. 24, Ryerson’s new spoken word group Poetic Exchange held their inaugural poetry slam. The event showcased the performances of 12 students who each performed two original poetic pieces to an energetic crowd and a panel of five judges made up of club executives and audience members.
With each piece performed, artists were met with sounds of agreement and shouts of encouragement from their listeners. The only silent moments during the slam were in the few seconds before each performer began, and when the words of the piece struck the audience speechless. Throughout the evening, emotions ran high between both competitors and the crowd to create a type of bond between everyone in the room during the competition.
“The slam tonight really helped our members and competitors push themselves. For the speakers, it could have pushed them to have the bravery to come out and perform, and for the crowd it could have helped them to learn to listen to what others say, and to understand what they mean or to find the significance in what they’ve written,” said the group’s president Patrick Garcia.
As with all competitions there was a winner, and Poetic Exchange’s inaugural poetry slam champion was first-year English student Jacob Agustin.
“Winning tonight was one thing, just because I was totally caught off guard and surprised,” Agustin said, but praised the audience for “showing their energy to the people performing.”
“It takes a lot of courage to be up there and we really commend and encourage that.” Agustin has been performing in slams since 2012 and wants to get more people involved in the spoken word and poetry scene because it is a creative outlet many people don’t consider. “Slam is slam, but poetry is you. It’s just you going onstage and doing what you love to do, and no one can take that away from you.”
Poetic Exchange started up this year and has gained the attention of many students through social media campaigning, writing and performance sessions, and a blog that allows Ryerson students the opportunity to share their own poetic, rap, or spoken word work.
“I met all of the executive members through coffee houses and conferences, and that’s when I saw each of their talents and what they could contribute to the club,” Garcia said. “It worked out great, because I could see right away where all of our goals matched up and how our skills could work together.” During their first student group fair on campus, over 125 people signed up.
The successful slam almost didn’t happen due to a lack of performers. It wasn’t until the morning of the slam that the group had met the required number of competitors and were able to confirm the event. The group’s president credits the success of the slam to the Poetic Exchange executive team and the student members’ passion for spoken word.
“We all worked together for three weeks to make sure the event could happen and to make sure the passion was there, and I think it really worked out,” Garcia said.
Garcia also hopes that the slam will help bring the club to the attention of more students in the next year, and for that attention to hold on for many years after. “I hope that Poetic Exchange is still run by a strong team after I graduate this year and I hope that they can carry on not just what I’ve brought into the group, but what every member has brought into the group.”