After a prolonged silence, the audience burst into applause for New Hampshire Technical Institute student Ed Wilkinson. His poem, which had begun as a humorous analysis of shoplifters, ended with an epistemological epiphany in which Wilkinson decided that he is the worst shoplifter of all.
“I’ve taken more from myself than anyone else,” he stated.
Wilkinson went on to win the All-Star Slam, held in the Little Building Cabaret on Monday. The event hosted by the Emerson Poetry Project, the college’s slam team, featured local poets, Emerson alumni and current Emerson students.
“We held it so early in the year so that freshmen could be exposed to Emerson slam poetry,” said Bobby Crawford, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major and treasurer of the Emerson Poetry Project.
With the help of other Emerson poets, the Emerson Poetry Project put together the event, handing out posters on the street and gathering a team of “all-stars” to compete. The competitors were New England poets who frequently perform at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge.
Competitors Melissa Newman-Evans and fellow poet Meaghan Ford were both of the Emerson class of 2009. Both helped support the original team and the founders of the Emerson Poetry Project Carlos Williams, Peter Lundquist, Maxwell Kessler, and Carrie Rudzinski. Their team reached the semi-finals in the 2009 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) which is attended by Emerson Poetry Project members annually.
Seven audience members were randomly picked to judge, some of whom admitted to knowing little about poetry. The poets were rated on a scale of one to 10, or, in the words of Crawford, the night’s host, from the “worst possible experience” to “George Watsky and Michael Fassbender high-fiving in the sky wearing jetpacks exploding into a million Board Bucks for everyone.”
Simone Beaubien, the SlamMaster for the weekly Boston Poetry Slam at the Cantab Lounge, began the competition with a resigned, yet powerful poem about the hidden toughness of gymnasts.
“If you’re too lazy to abuse your American daughter yourself, you send her to gymnastics,” said Beaubien.
The two poems in the final round took a more serious tone. Wilkinson recited a poem addressed to friends considering suicide, while Newman-Evans recited a stark narrative about selling a prized flute to support a family.
Wilkinson’s final score was the highest of the night. After quietly receiving his prize of $100, Crawford revealed that Wilkinson had not wanted to come to the slam in the first place and never expected a win.
“It was a bigger turn-out than I expected,” admitted Wilkinson of the packed theater.