Words light up stage at night of poetry

By Rebecca Panico

Shantelle Lowery grabbed the microphone and stood in front a crowd of about 50 people in Hutchinson’s first-floor auditorium on April 16 with the words “poetry slam” written on a whiteboard behind her.

“My first poem is for someone very, very special,” she said.

She paused. “I hate you.”

The crowd erupted in laughter and Lowery, a psychology and psychiatric rehabilitation major, continued on. But despite the humor, the poem actually dealt with her emotions at the time of her mother’s cancer diagnosis.

“I hate you, cancer,” Lowery, 21, read on. “You took my one and only mother… one day the doctor called me and told me to come in because my mother only had one day to live.”

At the end, the crowd snapped their fingers rather than applauding. Snapping fingers – said Rikki Orange, the event’s host – lets the poet know that they’re being heard and felt without interrupting the flow of the performance.

“We sought to give you guys [the performers] an outlet…to express your heart,” said Orange at the beginning of the event.

The event, titled “Potency of Poetry,” began at 7 p.m. and was benefiting Kean’s Sigma Tau Delta English Honor’s Society. Anyone could register to perform for $2 and audience members paid $3 to get in.

The poetry slam, which has a bit more attitude than traditional poetry readings one would see in a café during the 1950s or 60, featured performers that were not just limited to English majors, were from all walks of life and were both young and old.

Some performed musical sketches, like early childhood education major Brendan Salazar, who sang and played acoustic guitar. Others rapped with interludes of a capella singing, like Matthew Cunha, a freshman communications major.

Topics of the poems were eclectic, covering themes such war, politics, love, race, relationships and personal struggles.

Mary Ellen Banfield, who is expected to graduate this May from Kean with a master’s in English writing, read a poem titled “Third Wind” about her ex-husband of 22- years and his flatulence.

“…An anal exhale, no fresh air to inhale. An air biscuit I’d rather not taste. A booty cough that must be covered! A brown haze which never clears,” Banfield read aloud to much laughter from the audience.

Others decided to do some spontaneous poetry, like Holly Wood (yes, that’s her real name), who was also a host and organizer of the event.

“Slam. Poetry. Yelling. Angry. Waving my hands a lot. Specific point of view on things,” Wood said with punctuated rhythm, almost perfectly describing most of the poems of that night in a few simple words.

Over 20 people performed that night. The event raised $162 and will be used to fund future events, said treasurer and secretary for the English Honors Society Sarah Sakowski.

Adam Raffaele, a public school teacher that teaches science in Union township, heard of the event from his girlfriend and tagged along to watch.

Even the science-guy enjoyed the night of arts and entertainment.

“It’s very good to see everyone open up,” said Raffaele. “It’s not exactly my thing but it was cool to see.”

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