In the lead-up to CUPSI (College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational), a Chicago-based poetry slam, W.O.R.D.S. (Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories) presented a showcase of their four-man team in Freeman Auditorium. Joined by guest performer Siaara Freeman, the event was a relaxed portrayal of a confident group of talented performers, simply doing what they love.
Following up the 28/2 poetry slam, Road to CUPSI, Abigail Kennedy, David Gaines, Davon Clark, and Rabiyatu Jalloh presented a series of group and individual poems, supported by their coach, Gabriel Green. Over April 12-15, they will perform these poems in Chicago, alongside participating in workshops, and a number of additional slams. Green, who openly (read jokingly) professes a love/hate relationship with each of his poets, says he’s confident they’ll go far.
‘This is my second year working with WORDS, as a coach. This year taking on the additional advisor’s role to the organization… I’m really confident. We have a lot of team members back, that was on the team last year, and so, they already have the experience of being at the competition and seeing the level of competition is like. And so I’m super, super confident.
He continues, ‘the writing that they’ve been doing is really really great. At this point what we’re doing is tightening things up, getting things to the best possible way that they can be. I think the sky’s the limit. I’m not really one that uses hyperbole, but I think that we can do some really great things.’ In support of the event, W.O.R.D.S. will be releasing a book titled ‘Gabriel’s Tears,’ poking fun at their coach.
An early highlight was the opening poem, from Rabiyatu and Davon, titled ‘Mr. Monopoly’: ‘the less money you have, the easier you are to move… Mr. Monopoly, did we ever have a chance at winning? Or were we born bankrupt.’ The same pair of poets later performed a tribute-of-sorts to Chance the Rapper, ‘Blessings Pt.3’: ‘Chance taught me that all you need is happy thoughts… Chance 3 was our God-given reparations.’
Siaara Freeman, a professional poet from Ohio, broke up the CUPSI performances with a fiery presentation of her work. Particularly notable was a hilarious poem directed at her ex: ‘I wish you strap ons that won’t stay strapped on… I wish you lived in a world with no music. Except Drake mixtapes. Which isn’t so bad… Until it’s all you got!’ On a more serious note, Freeman also delved into her experiences as the daughter of a drug dealer and her struggles with bipolar disorder.
Ending with a poem titled ‘Black Excellence,’ the group seemed confident about their ethos as both artist and emotional torchbearer for their friends and audiences: ‘when being black and alive is rebellion, existence is black excellence.’