Our slammin’ February has at last drawn to a close, folks: from the world-class stylings of Porsha Olayiwola to the lowbrow hijinks of Adam Stone’s Erotic Box of Doom to the pace-setting Boston Poetry Slam Team Selection Semi-Finals, it has been blazingly hot in here all month. This past Wednesday was no exception, as we prepared the CUPSI Warm-Up to send off our local favorites to the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, the collegiate nationals-level competition, that kicks off in Boulder, Colorado in just a few short weeks.
The slam was a rollicking ride of fresh ideas and slam standards, polished work and rawly sincere performance; we kicked off the show with sacrifices from Lesley College’s Jess Riz and UMass Boston’s Eddy Martinez, who set the bar for art and prepped those not yet in the know for the Cantab’s famously low-scoring judges. Berklee’s Will Lynch kicked in the door of this five-team match for the first round with the first of what would be many poems investigating the theme of privilege; his score stood tall for a first-round effort, but Simmons College took a huge lead from the center of round one with a three-woman group piece laying out How to Cry in Public in Five Easy Steps taking a huge early lead by a full two points. Harvard closed the round with a memorable meta-aware group piece that rattled the audience’s perceptions (but not the judge’s scorecards) and led to a quick shuffle for the next round’s rotation.
Rounds two and three featured even lower scores as the judges showed a total disregard for each other’s opinions; Allison Truj from Emerson was probably the most glaring example of the judges’ strife, with a measured narrative Recipe for Cooking Your Past that netted a score spread 4.2 between high and low! Despite strong efforts from Northeastern’s Franco Tort in round two and Emerson’s Sierra Lister in round three, top honors in each round went to Berklee’s Josh Elbaum, who shared a brief analysis of flippant humor, and Harvard’s unusual and ambiguous three-voice group piece on Trying to Explain the Sun.
To open the final round, high-scoring Harvard found themselves following their own poem, with a dogged Emerson team not far behind; the unassuming Jonathan Mendoza took the high score of that round with a deadpan explanation on How to Conceal a Boner garnering big laughs from the crowd and resulting in a different team taking the high in each of the four rounds. Simmons followed with a two-voice piece addressing the highly influential Walter White, with Berklee bringing the heavy in the form of Summer Rhoades’ Alcohol Timeline for Privileged Youth. Open mic favorite Austin Hendricks closed the night for Northeastern with an earnest analysis of the chill of space.
At the end of four rounds, Simmons’ commanding lead held strong, giving them the big win for the evening and bragging rights for another year. Emerson’s marathon-not-a-sprint strategy paid off in the form of a three-tenth margin for second place, with cross-town rivals Berklee just under a point behind. The crowd favorites from Harvard University finished a respectable fourth, with the slammers from Northeastern rounding out the field with high! fives! all around for their first-time effort as a collegiate team.
What a super night from our five local colleges and universities: our biggest and bestest thanks to all the poets and coaches who took the time to speak to our crowd, all in the name of prepping for CUPSI 2014 just a few short weeks from now. Outbound students: don’t forget that you’ve still got one more Wednesday between now and then, though, with our world-famous open mic and the intensely fabulous Jeanann Verlee as our feature. Hope to see everyone there!