Editor’s note: Tanya Azari is the SickSpits’ president in addition to the opinion editor at The Aggie.
On May 7, UC Davis’ Spoken Word Collective, SickSpits, will host their annual Poetry Slam, a competitive spoken word reading. The event boasts special guest and two-time World Poetry Slam champion Buddy Wakefield, as well as spoken word pieces from both students and community members in a competitive format.
Poetry Slams aren’t just your average poetry readings. Tanya Azari, a second-year Spanish major and SickSpits’ president, explained that spoken word has a key advantage — the reader, who adds style to each piece.
“What comes to mind when most people think poetry is Walt Whitman and Robert Frost,” Azari said. “But slam or spoken word is expressive and it has to do with not only what words you say, but how you say them and your presence. It is less like a poem as much as it is a performance piece.”
With the five SickSpits’ members as judges, performers will have three minutes to captivate the audience. Any poem exceeding the allotted time will be docked points.
“It is a competition so points matter, but mostly the poets are there to share their work,” Azari said. “No one actively goes up and tries to beat everyone out. It’s more like, ‘I’m going to go up there and give it my all and see what happens.’”
That’s exactly what Alyson Sagala, a UC Davis graduate and last year’s third-place winner did. Having performed in several of SickSpits’ monthly open mics, she decided to enter the slam.
“Spoken word was just a natural evolution of my poetry into something more,” Sagala said. “I don’t shy away from public speaking, so when I realized there was a way to express my poetry in a raw, emotional, performance-oriented way, I knew it was worth trying to see if I would like it, and more importantly if I’d be good at it.”
Sagala also mentioned how the event is a great opportunity for aspiring poets to show off their work.
“I know so many people who hesitate to perform their poetry because they’re shy or not sure if they can handle the pressure,” Sagala said. “Ripping the band-aid off and performing for the first time will take all the insecurity away. After that, you’ll feel invincible.”
There is no limit to the topics of the poems but recurring themes do tend to come up in slams. Politics, social justice, equality and self-actualization typically make the docket. Highly-anticipated performer, Buddy Wakefield, is no stranger to these themes.
“I have been writing about ideal self all these years and my goal is to move closer and closer to that,” Wakefield said. “I consistently model that ideal self and try to leave writing on the wall for people who have a similar goal.”
According to Wakefield, college events are some of his most comfortable stops.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years on tour and some of that time has been doing nothing but colleges so I actually have quite a home at colleges around the country,” Wakefield said. “I expect to perform at the poetry venues, the theaters and the galleries but I’m always excited to be performing at colleges.”
The event starts at 7 p.m. in the Art Annex, also known as the Technocultural Studies Building. A suggested donation of one dollar will be collected at the door. SickSpits is also welcoming entries; for more information visit facebook.com/SickSpits. Videos and information on Buddy Wakefield can be found at buddywakefield.com.
COLEMAN PERKINS can be reached at email@example.com.