Montclair State University’s Grand Slam poetry winners are excitedly preparing to represent the university in the 2015 College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) taking place in Richmond, Va. this week.
Earlier this semester, Montclair State’s poetry competition, The Gran Slam, allowed poets to compete to determine who will have the privilege to represent Red Hawk Country in the CUPSI competition, where over 60 schools compete to see who has the best poets.
With the CUPSI competition taking place on Wednesday, the team has a lot to look forward to as they continue to work hard practicing six days a week for two hours to work on poems and performance.
Montclair State’s slam, held on Feb. 5, was a three round poetry competition where 10 poets performed their own poems and were judged on a numeric scale out of 30 points for each poem performed. The top five poets with the highest scores were chosen to represent the university in this year’s CUPSI battle at Virginia Commonwealth University March 25 to 28.
“CUPSI will be a lot of work,” says Jovon Warren, one of the poets. “If I could choose the team for CUPSI I couldn’t go wrong either way. So for me to be with the people I’m going with now, it’s going to be a lot of fun. We earned our way to Grand Slam just like we earned our way to CUPSI.”
In addition to Warren, the five member poetry team includes Dean Mulzac, Sean Alino, Audrey Dingler, and Fe Reyes. All of them are members of Montclair State’s literary and creative writing organization, Speaking Through Silence (STS).
Last year’s competition left Montclair State in fourth place. The team, and supporters are confident that this year will be another successful one.
“I’m expecting them to win,” said sophomore Jael Joseph, who attended this year’s Grand Slam as a lover of poetry, supporter and friend of many of the contestants. “I think we have an amazing team, and really talented people that do all different types of poetry. When their styles come together, they’re diverse.” Joseph hopes to someday compete in CUPSI, and went to the slam to see what she was in for and who she was up against.
Although the Grand Slam is a much smaller competition than CUPSI, a lot of time and energy was put into the event to make it a success. President of STS, Audrey Dingler, 19, was not only a competitor in the Grand Slam, but she was responsible for organizing the event.
“I started preparing since September,” said Dingler, a sophomore whose pride and joy in representing the organization is met with an excited demeanor and a smile. “This was the first time I’d ever done something like this.”
Along with organizing weekly STS meetings, and preparing herself and her team to compete, Dingler was also responsible for booking a room, finding a DJ, notifying police, and promoting the event. Fortunately, the night went well, and to make things better Dingler, who performed poems about depression, sexual assault, and memory, came in fifth place in the competition, earning her a spot to compete with her fellow Red Hawks in CUPSI.
Warren, a 19-year-old sophomore originally from Elizabeth, New Jersey, came in first place at the Grand Slam. As a young boy who grew up with music all around him, Warren told how writing was something he was going to do regardless.
“Writing is one of those things that always had a place for me,” said Warren, who started writing since he was in the fifth grade. “My dad was into music. He was a DJ so I fell in love with beat, rhythm, and I fell in love with lyric.”
Now a member of STS, and having won the Grand Slam, Warren says that his dream is coming true, and he is extremely grateful for this opportunity. “Dreams don’t only come true when you’re sleeping,” says Warren, quoting a line of his own poetry.
Having recently joined the literary organization in the fall 2014 semester, Warren has already benefitted, crediting the support, critique, and sense of family that the club offers for his success and growth as a writer and poet.
Second place Grand Slam winner, Dean Mulzac, said a brotherhood was also formed as a result of the organization. “I think my first STS meeting was also Jovon’s first STS meeting,” says Mulzac, who also refers to the decision to join the club as the best decision he ever made. From that day until now, the connection between the two poets has grown into a friendship in which their similar styles and ambition formed an unbreakable bond. Both are delighted to be able to support each other in the upcoming CUPSI competition.
Mulzac, a 20 year-old junior, tells how many of his poems begin with a picture, image, quote, or personal experience. His poem “Silence” which scored a perfect score of a 30 in the Grand Slam competition, is an example of a poem where his personal experience of being in a car accident is described with vivid imagery. “I wanted to put a gun to my throat in hopes that the pain would leave me hanging like strange fruit tied to a rope,” he said, reciting a line taken from his poem.
Before making their grand appearance at CUPSI the team will be doing a free event where they share their poetry pieces that they prepared for the competition. The event will be held on March 23 at 8 p.m. in Montclair State’s Rathskeller.
Montclair State | New Jersey