From April 10 to 13, members of Oberlin’s poetry slam team, OSLAM, spit with their love and truth at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). Held this year at the University of Houston, CUSPI is the largest college-level poetry slam in the world.
This year, OSLAM placed 11th out of 60 teams—the group’s best finish yet. OSLAM President and comparative American studies major Hanne Williams-Baron ’19 notes the artistic risks the Oberlin team took that bolstered the group’s position in the standings.
“One of the most exciting parts of the competition this year was throwing an experimental group poem at the end of our semifinals bout,” says Williams-Baron. “We had the poets sit on the floor of the stage and face each other. We also incorporated singing and choreography into the performance. In taking that kind of artistic risk, we changed the energy of the slam and ended up scoring a perfect 30.’’
Williams-Baron says that, aside from the competition, another reason OSLAM competes at the invitational is that it gives insight into how schools in various regions perceive poetry, performance, and social justice.
“It's really cool to see the ways that other schools are thinking about poetic intention and the politics of performance. We get to observe the different environmental influences that make each team‘s poetry unique. It feels like a privilege to meet and share poetry with so many other extraordinarily talented poets from across the world.”
As a graduating senior, Williams-Baron is looking forward to seeing how the group of mostly first-year students grows.
“I think OSLAM sticks out from other teams because of the level of intention, nuance, and collaboration we put into our poems. We think critically about every single image and reference we use, and we think a lot about how to take care of an audience while also challenging them. I can only imagine how powerful OSLAM will be by this time next year.”
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