Rutgers–Camden to Host Second Annual Poetry Slam

By Tom McLaughlin

Rutgers University–Camden will once again set the stage for a playoff-type atmosphere as more than 100 students from Burlington, Camden, and Hudson counties square off in the Louder Than a Bomb–Camden poetry slam from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 18, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 19. Both days will include non-judged open-mic opportunities for guests of all ages.

The event, which is free and open to the general public, will be held in the Multi-Purpose Room and the South ABC conference rooms in the Campus Center.

Lamont Dixon leads a poetry workshop for participants.

Lamont Dixon leads a poetry workshop for participants.

“Poetry is the oldest and most significant artistic form of expression known to humankind, worldwide,” says Lamont Dixon, an Atco poet who is volunteering as the event organizer. “It’s an art form that gives voices to the voiceless, because its creation invokes both the written and spoken word.”

Based on the format, five judges will score the poets on a scale of 1 to 10. The top and bottom scores are then eliminated and the middle scores added to determine the poet’s score for the round. The organizers note that judges are chosen for their love of poetry, and not based on any educational requirements, placing less emphasis on the competitive aspect of the slam in service to its greater, community mission.

Throughout the school year, Rutgers University–Camden students in the master of fine arts program in creative writing have been helping teachers and children form poetry and spoken-word clubs in their schools, conducting on-site workshops, and organizing a series of lead-up events. The workshops explore poems that highlight particular skills or themes, such as identity and place, and cover poetic devices, such as figurative language, rhythm, and repetition. The aspiring poets learn to read, write, and recite poetry, as well as witness other poets in action.

“The success of this event rests not only with our volunteer artists, poets, school partners, and youth participants, but with the Rutgers–Camden MFA students who play a significant role as coaches and workshop facilitators, preparing the youth poets for the event,” says Nyeema Watson, acting associate chancellor for civic engagement in the Office of Civic Engagement at Rutgers–Camden.

The poetry slam will be the culmination of a yearlong preparation for students at Burlington County Institute of Technology, Cinnaminson High School, Collingswood High School, The Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy, Gloucester City High School, High Tech High School, MetEast High School, and Urban Promise Academy, as well as members of the Lifting Up Camden’s Youth squad.

louderthanabombcamdenAccording to Dixon, poetry attracts all students, because anyone with something worthy to say can write a good poem. “It is no wonder that a number of organizations have championed a new age of teenage writers, artists, and wordsmiths,” says Dixon, an Atco resident and native of Philadelphia.

Rutgers–Camden continues to see an outpouring of support and interest from the local community since bringing the poetry slam to Camden.

“Last year, I witnessed entire families – aunts, uncles, grandparents, sisters, brothers, and cousins – come to support their sons and daughters, the local librarian, the bookstore owner, community activists, and educators,” says Dixon. “I attribute the interest to the communal aspect of the spoken word. Poets speak to everyday happenings and general subjects – simple and esoteric – that the ‘average Joe’ can relate to.”

Louder Than a Bomb–Camden is the local version of the nationally held Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam, which began in Chicago in 2001. In 2009, a documentary was released about the festival in Chicago, leading to the emergence of similar events throughout the country, including Boston, Ann Arbor, Madison, Tulsa, Lincoln, Dallas, Greensboro, and Washington D.C.

Registration is not required. For more information, contact Tim Lynch at tsl35@scarletmail.rutgers.edu.

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