A year ago Catcher in the Rhyme considered it a good Wednesday open mic when there was a grand total of ten people in the audience. This year their average open mic receives an audience of around 40, while their slam poetry event on January 23 gathered over 100 people who willingly cramped into Café Logan to listen to the poets perform. The slam was the long-awaited competition to see who would win a spot in the traveling team for College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). The competition consisted of two rounds—each potential CUPSI contestant performed a poem in both, while being awarded points by the very critical judges. Out of the ten potential victors, the five who were chosen to travel were second-year Shaan Heng-Devan (one of the founders of the club—the other is second-year Nina Li Coomes), first-year Emma Koch, first-year Cindy Ji, first-year Helena Bassett, and second-year Brandon Nichols. The competition will take place at Barnard College in New York City the weekend of April 3.
Although the slam is an important component of the organization, Catcher in the Rhyme are more than just CUPSI competitors. Everyone is welcome at their open mics, which initially offered a chance for people to hang out and share their poems. Last year there were around five constant members. One of the group’s favorite anecdotes is that Heng-Devan constantly had to write poems in order for the open mics to last long enough to constitute a substantial show.
The term “slam poetry” is often associated with honest, confessional or political prose styling. In Catcher in the Rhyme’s case, the term covers many different genres of poetry, in addition to poetic forms of artistic expression that may have little or nothing to do with the written word. People have read haikus, played the guitar, read letters, and danced before.
This is all in accordance with Catcher in the Rhyme’s mission to build a community of poets and other artists who listen and give each other feedback. And although the main focus seems to be poetry, for Bassett, “Catcher in the Rhyme is not about the poetry. It’s about the moment right after, when the music comes on and everyone is just happy together.”
It may be difficult to understand what a slam poem even is. For Ji, slam poems are usually pieces of prose in which she tries to figure out topics that bother her but that she can’t seem to talk about in usual conversation. Slam poems help her open up in a way that everyday conversations, which tend to be full of small talk, don’t. The success of slam poems comes from their raw emotion, not their form.
There is no specific formula to writing slam. However, in order to write Rhyme’s group-authored pieces, brainstorming and extensive planning of the format are essential. Many participants at the open mics consider the process an excellent method of stress relief. If you are looking to get a jolt of inspiration, or blow off steam in the form of free-flowing poetic discourse, join Catcher in the Rhyme at its regular Wednesday evening gig in Café Logan.