Poetry organization W.O.R.D.S. hosted the ‘Road to CUPSI Poetry Slam’ on Tuesday night (28/2), marking the end of Black History Month with words criticizing racism, rape, war, and homophobia.

Hosted in Flex Theatre, Road to CUPSI saw 8 poets go head-to-head to earn a free trip to 2017’s CUPSI (College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational). Hosted in Chicago, the poetry slam is organized this year by Illinois University, a four-day event of workshops and slams. W.O.R.D.S. (Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories) sends four competitors to the competition every year. Though this team had already been chosen, two spots were available to successful Road to CUPSI competitors. These winners will join the four actual W.O.R.D.S. competitors in Chicago for the weekend, as spectators

Held in typical slam style, five random members of the audience were chosen to judge – each with no ties to any of the performers. From there, rounds were held elimination-style, with two competitors eliminated per round.  Each poet had to perform a different poem every round, and no props, music, or costumes were allowed. The third and final round – in which the final four were narrowed down to two winners – was a clean slate, with the previous rounds having no bearing on the results. During the night, audience members were encouraged to perform as well.

Cleo Margaret began the night’s competitive proceedings with a scathingly beautiful work focused on the ills of racism, criticizing the way many treat Black History Month: ’28 days to prove you’re not racist.’ Later, more biting, brilliant words took the stage:

‘do you still pledge allegiance to a country that doesn’t claim you?’

‘From where I stand, it’s clear to me who the dangerous man is.’

‘The most abusive relationship you can have is with a mirror.’

‘I will go down fucking kicking and screaming.’

Nadia Souada and Kelly Chu emerged victorious in the final round, Nadia winning a head-to-head bonus round with a fourth poem, to break a tie, while Kelly gained first place in the final round. Nadia’s poems told her personal story, mostly focusing on her experiences with rape. Kelly’s were focused on racism, telling her story as an Asian American.

With just over a month to go until CUPSI, the slam set the stage for more to come. For those interested in seeing the competitors themselves, the four W.O.R.D.S. CUPSI representatives will be performing in Freeman Auditorium on March 15, alongside a special feature performer. Entry is free.

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