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Poetry Night brought back to life

On Thursday, Oct. 8, National Poetry Day at Chum’s, an ancient tradition, was rekindled like a phoenix from the ashes: Poetry Night. Alumnus Rohan Narayanan ’15 resurrected Poetry Night last spring in order to offer a space for students to share their passions and thoughts about the world through the artistic style of spoken word.

The organization of this event, titled “REVIVAL: Poetry Night,” was taken up by students Nellie Spener ’17, Alona Weimer ’18 and Clayre Benzadon ’17. Generous donations will sponsor the event until funding from the university can be secured, and in return, the donors are granted a spot to showcase their own poetry or given a shout-out at the end of the night. Each performance occupies a five- to seven-minute time slot, featuring themes like “identity,” “love,” “sorrow” and “faith.”

The atmosphere of the night was set as the lights were dimmed, rugs laid out across the floor, a crowd of excited students settled into the black leather couches and a single spotlight shining on the microphone on stage. Spener opened the event by welcoming the audience and explaining the purpose of reviving Poetry Night. “It’s crucial for this to be a community event,” said Spener, encouraging people from all different backgrounds to share the stage.

There were 13 performances scheduled for the night, each contributing a unique and inspirational composition, and each completely captivating the audience with their words. One poet spoke about religious intolerance as a response to the mass shooting in Oregon this past week and the legislation’s interpretation of the event as a statement about gun control. Another performer shared poems from her childhood that she had written about love, which was then followed by a performer who commanded the stage with a powerful piece of slam poetry. A surprising changeup in the type of pieces occurred after a brief intermission when a young man with a guitar walked on stage. Gently strumming, he sang “House at Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins and “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran, which created a unified feeling in the room as members of the audience began to sing along.

The style and form of the poetry shared was not limited in any way; the night included pieces of free verse, traditional verse, lyrical, satirical and, perhaps most striking, slam poetry. Several of the performances were original works of slam poetry, and they were certainly awe-inspiring to hear. One becomes completely gripped in the poet’s voice as it rises and falls with emotion, speeds up and slows with the intensity of their words. Pieces of slam poetry shared during the event touched upon subjects like “coming out” and the true meaning behind the word “consequence.”

After the slotted performances concluded, the last half hour of the night became an open-mic session in which anyone from the audience could share their poetry. The first person to climb on stage recited a poem he had written in the previous 10 minutes, having been cured of his writer’s block by the remarkable work of the night’s poets. Another open-mic volunteer shared a rap-like poem which advocated the importance of speaking up for children suffering abuse. Lastly, the night drew to a humorous end with a piece that was not a poem, but rather a story. It was about three brave archeologists in Egypt who discovered a tomb containing three doors, each engraved with a prediction of death for those who entered. Naturally, the brave archeologists entered, but how they met their demise was completely unexpected. The story was lengthy, but the pun at the end was absolutely worth the wait.

The audience was carried through poems of happiness, loss, confusion, questioning, reflection and love, and at the end of the night, everyone left Chum’s in cheerful spirits, surely relieved of the stress of midterms, at least temporarily. Whether you enjoy sharing your own poems or just listening to the heart-felt words of your peers, Poetry Night is certainly the place to be. The next two Poetry Nights will take place in November and December, so consider spending a couple hours surrounded by a family of artists, and perhaps you’ll feel inspired to create some art of your own.

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