If you happened to pass by the Vanderslice Cabaret Room this past Monday night and did not have your headphones in, allow me to assuage any questions you may have. Yes, those strange, guttural noises were moans—followed by lethargic or quick snapping. These sounds of commotion and creative chaos came from the slam poetry reading, "Bang, Snap, Slam" hosted by our very own, The Gavel, along with BC SLAM! and the BC Music Guild. At such events, BC SLAM! often encourages its 30 members and assembled spectators to either "sex moan" or snap in appreciation of a verse or a line.
The event room was lit only by dim overhead light fixtures and a single strand of Christmas lights. In the front of the room, there was a small makeshift stage with microphone stands and musical instruments arranged in a semi-circle. Most of the seats were filled, but some people stood in the back if only until a song’s end or a poem’s last line. The level of chatter between performances depended on the topic of the previous piece.
I would like to say that the words of each poet drowned out the bustling noises heard on the adjacent sidewalk, that the power of poetry dulled the lurching, exhausted sound of the buses passing by—but they did not. The world still turned outside of the forum. Some would say that this is an apt portrayal of what poetry is, though, especially slam poetry.
Many slam poems speak of pain and longing, regret and love. Poets tell stories with immense depth in the bump and rhyme of slam poetry. They talk about their deepest secrets, greatest loves, and biggest fears—things that mean the world to them, yet things that most of the world does not hear.
Some would say that a true poet does not need the world to hear his work. The famous American poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, once wrote, "Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone." Graffiti can be seen everywhere: on highway signs, along underpasses, and on science classroom desks. Often, the artist (or the "vandalizer") adorns walls, billboards, and desks not for the public defacement or for the kudos, but rather to satisfy something in themselves. They spray-paint their names on government property and fill in colorless portions of highway barricades to tell a story through a creative medium not unlike that which was seen at "Bang, Snap, Slam."
Sometimes, graffiti can be bright and colorful, a nod of encouragement encased in the stem of a daisy. Other times it can be dark and pained, a cry for help on the brick of an enclosed alleyway. Passersby may catch a glimpse or even think back to it throughout their day, but that piece of art was not created for them. Poetry, like graffiti, is a testament of feeling, and as many people know, feelings (however valid) are not always acknowledged in the dog-eat-dog world of America.
BC SLAM! is a group that gives acknowledgment to the feeling and candid creativity of poets. Ryan Chan, MCAS '17 was the MC of the event as well as the current treasurer in training of BC SLAM! He describes the club as being "full of positivity and support," but also "very personal at times." His group does not write off emotion; instead, they write about it.
"We want everyone to feel comfortable sharing whatever they want without judgment,” Chan remarked.
The poets who read their pieces last night shared a part of themselves with the spectators—this requires a bravery that is not commended enough today. Although the world still turned outside the dimly lit room in Vanderslice Hall, the poets bore their souls and gave the audience an idea of just how many voices the world ignores.