It’s the only event where finger snaps are used for encouragement. Chairs are set up in front of a single black microphone stand. The lighting is dimmed slightly, and the sound of the fountain is faint but calming.
The Poetry Slam, sponsored by the Plattsburgh State’s Center of Womyn’s Concerns, Organization of Women of Ethnicity and LGBTQ Student Union, took place at the Myers Fine Arts building in the Nina Winkle Sculpture Garden. Performers were able to recite poetry and enjoy free food and drinks.
“Originally, Justine and I went to a poetry event downtown, which was held by the North Country Feminist Coalition,” CWC President Steffany Wilcox said.
Vice President of CWC Justine Bonilla and Wilcox said they were inspired by the event and wanted to bring a similar event to PSUC. Both Bonilla and Wilcox were impressed with the turnout of their first poetry slam.
Students were able to filter in and out of the event. During the busiest time, Bonilla said there were more than 50 students who attended the event.
“It really seemed like this was a safe space, and people got to talk about a lot of different things. It felt like people could express themselves, and I was happy about that, too,” Wilcox said.
PSUC junior and psychology major Brenna Santilli started the show with a poem titled “Tolerance.” Santilli said she was encouraged to read a poem as a member of CWC. She looked online and stumbled upon a poem that picked apart the definition of tolerance and compared it to acceptance.
“I’ve written poetry my whole life, so it’s an outlet to make something from a feeling, whether you feel sad or angry,” Santilli said. “You make a feeling into something beautiful to communicate feelings people have trouble expressing casually and make it look presentable.”
PSUC freshman radio and TV production major Kai Pasculi read an original poem titled “My Vision.”
In Pasculi’s poem, he writes about a girl who has “the ability to capture any man’s attention” and makes him grateful to have eyes. He said he wrote the poem about a girl he would often run into and admire but later found out she had a boyfriend.
“I sheltered my feelings, and I didn’t know how to approach her. I needed to get it off my chest, and this was therapeutic,” Pasculi said.
Topics of the poetry included body image, mental health, sexual assault, rape, life experiences and love.
“We were expecting a lot of people to talk about a bunch of different things because it is intersectional poetry,” Wilcox said.
PSUC freshman journalism major John Cruz read an original poem about a girl he liked earlier this year. He said he was heartbroken, but he expressed his feelings through poetry.
“A lot of what I wrote was from the top of my head,” Cruz said.
He was nervous and leaned on his family and friends to give him confidence to read poem to the crowd. Cruz said that once he was up there, he felt comfortable and even felt a connection with the audience. He also said the environment was different than other settings.
“I go to Coffeehouse every Wednesday. People are on their way to the library and go in and out between Subway and Griddles. It’s noisy, and not everyone is paying attention,” he said. “Being in Myers is ten times better.”
Bonilla said the fountain, dim lighting and artwork were appealing and set the mood for the event and made a really beautiful spot for the poetry slam.
“Whenever there’s another poetry slam, I’ll be there,” Cruz said.
PSUC sophomore theater major and author of the book “Cradle Bones,” Audra Colino shared a poem about the first girl she ever loved. She said she would intentionally change the pronouns from she to he, so this was an important story for her to tell. Colino wanted to stop being scared and show who she truly was.
After reading two of her own poems, Colino also participated in the open mic session of the poetry slam. When she first got to the mic, Colino said she was going to “freestyle,” and she told the audience a story about coming out to her godmother.
“Based on all the poems from today, I heard a lot about bisexuality. With CWC and LGBTQ here, I felt like it was a safe space,” Colino said. “I wanted to bring awareness to people who’ve never been to a poetry slam before. It could help people say how they feel.”
Wilcox said she hopes the event can be annual, especially after the successful turnout. Bonilla said diversity was represented well, so she’s hopeful for another poetry slam.
“Poetry clears my mind. It fleshes out my thoughts. It helps me find beauty in things that are sad,” Colino said. “I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, so I try to take that to heart and share it in words.”
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org