Students hold poetry slam at the Dolphin Cafe


Seniors Shalini Radhakrishnan, Sydney Mott, and Rebecca Herz, read from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends at Dolphin Bookshop on March 12. Students brought in original poetry in addition to reading from books around the store.

Ben Lerner, Staff Writer

Hollywood has cultivated a romanticized portrayal of spoken word poetry readings in bars: a succession of beatniks get up on stage to smoothly deliver their poems on stage, with the content ranging from their lives to their world views to a succinct narrative, and when they’re finished they’re met by a quiet applause of finger snaps.  A couple of the poets play the bongos in rhythm with their poems.  Though it may have fallen out of style, it remains a wonderful staple of verbal literary culture, a relaxing means of artistic expression and creative exchange.

Junior Jordan Abrams and senior Rebecca Herz took it upon themselves to bring the spoken word back by organizing their own Poetry Slam at Dolphin Bookshop.  They hoped to both promote an appreciation of poetry as well as to bring the community together with an event that would encourage people to make their voices heard and give people the opportunity to hear others’ work.

After Abrams started the Spoken Word Poetry Club last year, the two had the idea for a student poetry night instead.  After reaching out to Dolphin, Ms. Claudette Koller, who works at Dolphin,  helped coordinate the event, and get it off the ground.

It was a very relaxed, informal event.  People milled in to the café at around 6 p.m. on March 12, and the slam began shortly thereafter.

There were all types of people there: kids who were there because their English teacher recommended that they attend, people who wanted to read poetry for their own reasons, people who wanted to see their friends perform, and people like me who simply wanted to see what it was all about.  The order in which people presented their poems was random; people walked up whenever they felt like it.  Students read original poetry and other people’s works which they thought were good enough to share.  Some of the poems were deeply moving, delving into very personal issues that explored their painful past; others were more dreamlike, taking the crowd through an introspective journey that discussed human interconnectedness; some were a bit more lighthearted, such as a poem that talked about the opportunity costs of making poor life choices, read with the diction of a hip-hop artist.

Though the café could only accommodate about twenty people, enough people read multiple times that the audience was exposed to a broad range of poetry throughout the event.

“The most successful part was that everyone read and enjoyed themselves,” said Abrams.

Abrams and Herz moderated the event, deftly guiding the flow of poetry from person to person as well as occasionally jumping in to deliver anything from a long, introspective piece on the human condition to a short improvised poem woven with the diction of Emily Dickinson.  They placed poetry books on all the tables in the café before it started so that people would be able to keep reading all the way through.

There will be another open mic in April, and the hosts hope to have even more variety next time with music, acting, actual microphones, and more people.