Put down your textbooks for a night, and get slammed. Poetry slammed, that is. The Anthem, Cal Poly’s annual poetry slam competition, will take over Chumash Auditorium tonight.
The Anthem, an event with the tagline “Words will change the world,” is a night for students to “use the power of their voice and their words to make a difference.”
The Anthem will feature five poets, an award-winning emcee and hopefully, inspiration. The six-person group organizing the event started working in January.
Architectural engineering senior Josue Urrutia has worked on The Anthem event since his sophomore year.
“It all started with (Another Type of Groove, ATOG), then I went to my first Anthem,” he said. “Then I was hooked.”
Other students, such as senior psychology student Ellie Krumpholz, became involved in a similar way.
“I went to ATOG, and I left thinking ‘I have to be a part of this,’” she said.
The Anthem consists of a traditional poetry slam, in which there are three rounds of poems from each poet. The master of ceremonies selects audience members at random to judge the poets, and then the winner is determined.
“Each of the poets featured is nationally ranked,” business administration junior Jared Wiener said. “And the master of ceremonies, Steve Connell, won an international poetry slam.”
Members of The Anthem team stressed that Cal Poly has a reputation of having a strong spoken word poetry scene.
“When people hear ‘Cal Poly’ or see our Cal Poly email addresses, they’re instantly more interested,” Urrutia said. “We have a really good reputation in the world of spoken word poetry.”
With monthly poetry nights like ATOG, it’s understandable that Cal Poly is so well-known in the world of slam poetry.
But, Wiener said, The Anthem doesn’t just draw in regulars of ATOG.
“There’s a long-standing tradition of (The Anthem) being the event that gets people into spoken word poetry,” he said. “It’s definitely not just the people who go to ATOG all the time, and anyone will be able to find something they love.”
Getting the word out for the event has been a time consuming process. Software engineering sophomore Mark Lerner worked with a street team to put stakes throughout campus and plaster the University Union and surrounding areas with posters and fliers. But the street team, he said, doesn’t do the event justice.
“It’s a really challenging thing to explain,” he said. “You have to experience it once, then you’ll love it. Then you keep coming back.”
This year is journalism freshman Aryn Sanderson’s first experience with The Anthem, but she said she’s excited for what the event holds
“I’ve always had a love for slam poetry,” she said. “There’s something really cathartic about it. Listening to someone rip their heart out like that is really beautiful and inspiring.”
The night of inspiration is never the same as the year before, Urrutia said. The poets vary year to year, and the themes presented change constantly.
“It’s different every year,” he said. “It’s a whole new set of poets, who have different styles and different backgrounds. Just because you’ve been to one slam doesn’t mean you’ve been to all of them.”
Wiener said a poetry slam is nothing like the poetry anthologies read in class.
“It’s got more of a hip-hop influence; it’s beat-based,” he said. “This isn’t your E.E. Cummings or anything like that.”
A good spoken word poet thrives off the audience, Urrutia said. The poets are experienced in gauging the sentiments of the audience and appealing to them.
“Half of the experience of something like this is the content, the other half is performance,” he said. “But what’s amazing is how the poets feed off the audience, and the audience feeds off the poets.”
When it comes to campus diversity, it doesn’t get much better than The Anthem, Urrutia said.
“People always talking about bringing diversity to Cal Poly,” he said. “This defines diverse.”
The Anthem is free, and the first 25 people in line receive a free T-shirt. The program starts at 7 p.m. in Chumash Auditorium.
“It’s dead week, but The Anthem will make you feel alive,” Sanderson said.