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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Slam Society Eyeing 2017 CUPSI Tournament

UMB Slam Society

The Poetry Slam Society at the University of Massachusetts Boston is poised to make their second consecutive trip to the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, or CUPSI, tournament this March and into April. The Slam Society consists of students Beighly Weiss, McKenzie Hurder, Oliver DeSalvatore, and Yasmine Bailey, and is coached by UMass Boston graduates Christian Arthur and Eddy Martinez.

Recently, one of the reports from Mass Media sat down with one of our student-poets McKenzie Hurder, a sophomore double major in Business and English with aspirations of establishing an artistic space for gifted enthusiasts of poetry and music. The reporter asked Hurder what is it about spoken word that resonates with her. Hurder opined that “Spoken word, specifically, is cool because it makes poetry more accessible.”

Early on in the interview, Hurder summed up the relationship between poetry and spoken word, when she said “A movie is to a novel what slam poetry is to poetry.” When asked the follow-up question concerning her methodology for crafting her poetry, Hurder explained, “I have a horrible methodology, Christian [the team coach] yells at me. If I feel really, really inspired I like to stay up all night, or when I don’t feel inspired, I stay up all night until something hits me. Like sleep deprivation is my methodology.” She continued, “I guess strong emotions, or desperation, is my inspiration.”

When asked what she learned from her coaches and teammates, she said, “Probably learned almost everything from them regarding slam poetry.” Without needing to ask, Hurder offered what she meant. “Bringing the performance aspect in is really hard, whenever I would get up there, I would shake and I wouldn’t be able to change my voice or my tones, or really, perform it the way it was supposed to be.”

Hurder explained further, “Performing in front them is a lot less stressful. One, they’re going to give you feedback. They’re going to encourage you to do it no matter what. And what they say is usually correct. But they won’t say it in a way that will hurt your feelings or anything, and they’re always super respectful and amazing.”

She continued, “They set an example of what you want to be like. When Yasmine performs, specifically, [it’s an] incredible performance. She’s loud, she walks around the stage, she pumps her arms and she gets really into it, and that’s amazing. Beighly has a really great voice, she’s loud and she projects her voice, amazing. I feel like Eddy’s strength would be, well, Eddy, has no weaknesses as far as I’m concerned. But his poetry jumps around, so it keeps it interesting. And, as it jumps around, his voice jumps around, too, if that makes sense.”

When asked about her other coach, Christian Arthur, Hurder said “Christian and I have very, very different styles. I feel he’s really good with landscape descriptions, and descriptions in general. And that’s very calming.

Harder explained, “I’m not very calming in my poetry at all, and that’s kind of something that I want to work on. I tend to speak very fast and I tend to get nervous, and babble whereas Christian can take his time, and just relax the poem, and just make it come across and that’s something I’d like to do someday.”

The future coffee shop owning-poet subscribes to the artistry of her team, “So you can see what you want to do based on everyone on the team, it’s amazing.”

When asked about what she would tell a student interested in slam poetry, she said simply, “I would tell them to come our practices.”

In describing the feeling one has when delivering a strong poem in front of an audience, Hurder said “Its like you can finally organize your thoughts on a page and then slam poetry is to take it beyond and to relate to other people with that. So when you watch someone perform spoken word, a lot of times you’re like ‘oh, that’s the feeling I just didn’t have a word for that feeling.’ That’s when you know that’s a poem you’re taking to CUPSI.”

Although the Poetry Slam Team did not finish with the final result they had hoped for at the 2016 CUPSI tournament, Robb Thibault, the originator of the national CUPSI tournament and seasoned educator, said “If a team has gone through CUPSI once before or members of a team have gone before but did not win, then, with that experience, their chances are good, experience does that.”

CUPSI first began 17 years ago, in 2000, thanks to the efforts of Robb Thibault and the Association of College Unions International (ACUI). When asked why he started the CUPSI tournament, Thibault said, “It allows people to come in contact with others they normally would never come in contact with otherwise. It is a chance, maybe perhaps not for all likeminded people, but like-minded souls to come together, and I love that.”

As a result, the UMass Boston Slam Society has taken to the method of crowd-funding their journey to this year’s CUPSI tournament by way of Razoo, a service for underfunded non-profit groups. Initiated in late January 2017, the club has, so far, achieved $521 of their $3000 goal. In addition, the UMass Boston Slam Society is hosting a “Coffee House Open Mic Jam Fundraiser” event on Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the 1st Floor Terrace of the Campus Center, and again, at 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Harbor Gallery of the McCormack Building. Come through and show your support for the Slam Society!

At this year’s upcoming CUPSI, we should suspect our poetry slammers will leave longstanding footprints on the University of Illinois-Chicago stage. After all, as Thibault said during an interview, “[CUPSI] is where voices walk.”