On Friday, February 16th, the college’s arts and literary magazine The Reverie held a slam poetry contest in the coffee house, offering the winner a $15 gift certificate to the coffee house and automatic publishing of the selected winning piece in this year’s Reverie.
Dozens of people filled the room, sitting on floors, chairs and tables all fixed around the stage. There was a nervous buzz of excitement in the air. The audience was frequently reminded to submit to The Reverie (which any creatives reading this should totally do.) Then the MC started to pull names from a cup to randomly select readers.
Although the event was competitive, there didn't seem to be a sense of judgement or need to do better than anyone else. Everybody who read had an incredible story to tell. The courage it takes to get up there and tell your story, regardless of any single person’s experience as a writer, is inherently admirable. Right from the beginning, the topics of most poems were deeply personal and painful. Some were structured with rhythm, some people just poured their heart out. I was captivated by everyone.
Then my name was called.
My poem was about opening up to others. Most of it rhymed, embellishing my trials and failures with dry jokes. Then the rhyme pattern broke into a serious personal part. My whole body was shaking, I didn’t look up from my notebook once, my voice trembled like I was speaking through a fan. It was the most honest thing I have said to anyone since coming to GMC. Then it was over, and an adrenaline-filled wave of relief came over me.
I signed up my friend Kennedy Hunn to read. (All of her poems are bangers; you can find some of her work in previous editions of The Reverie.) She was angry that I did it, but ultimately enjoyed sharing a poem about the ways we attempt to cope with loneliness during the beginning of the college experience. She ended up winning the contest.
Being vulnerable is a beautiful thing. Equally, being vulnerable is absolutely terrifying. Learning to be vulnerable after a painful or traumatic experience is a massive obstacle to overcome. The smallest things can break our trust in seconds, yet building it again can take weeks, months, even years. Telling your story on a stage in front of an audience is another level of trust; it is a moment of blind faith in the hearts of everyone listening; and allow yourself to feel exposed. That, in my opinion, is what made this event so powerful, regardless of the competitive context.
I do not represent The Reverie, but with writing this I am obligated to remind you that you can submit your work The Reverie for blind consideration of publishing in this year’s edition. I look forward to reading more of everyone’s stories.