Last Tuesday, Al Haley, writer in residence and professor, hosted ACU’s annual Slam Poetry Night.
Students from Haley’s Poetry Workshop class and guest speakers from Abilene performed poetry for the event in The Inkwell of Chambers.
“It’s an evening of wow and wonder and words,” Haley said.
Every year since 2007, Haley has conducted a yearly poetry slam event for his ENG 323 Poetry Workshop class.
Haley started the tradition of Slam Poetry Night when he realized he wanted to bring something new to his poetry class. Although slam poetry doesn’t get much recognition from academia, Haley thinks it’s a special form of art that should be recognized.
“It feels like it comes out of their whole being, I guess you could say,” Haley said. “It’s more emotional and there’s a lot of rhythm, and sometimes you’ll see people move around a lot and you’ll feel like it’s almost like music.”
Ten students and four guest poets performed during the event. The audience was encouraged to comment and interact with the poets as they performed their pieces.
Haley’s students were required to perform one poem and bring at least two people with them. The Inkwell was packed and the audience overflow went out to the hallway.
Unlike a traditional poetry slam, this event was not a competition. Haley wanted a friendly atmosphere for his students to share their work in. Students were not given a certain theme to structure their work around.
“Professor Haley mentioned a call to action,” said Stephanie Whitlow, graduate creative writing major from Academy. “He wanted something to where we would need to engage the audience, get them to want to move on with that idea that we had or something that is bringing up truth.”
There was great variety in topics of what students and guest poets performed.
Sheila Haines, sophomore nursing major from Dallas, performed a heartfelt poem about an experience with an ex-boyfriend that invoked several shouts of agreement from the audience.
“I just really like the way that people get passionate,” she said. “Because when you read poetry, you can’t always feel the passion in it but when you see it performed, it’s right there in your face.”
Brandy Rains, former art major from Fort Worth, performed two poems. One was about the problems with way people think of God as a father figure and her other poem was about overcoming a diagnosis.
“I like that it’s a conversation between the poet and the audience,” Rains said.
Several students memorized their poems and worked for weeks so they could perform them the way they felt they should be heard.
“It’s really working with the words and seeing how it’s going to best impact the audience,” Whitlow said.
The students and guest speakers that participated in the event are very passionate about their work.
“I want my poetry to serve God in the way that it might give people a voice who feel like they don’t have a voice,” said Gabriel Prado, graduate creative writing major from Los Angeles.