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The Scarlet & Black

GST slams the campus writing community into verse

By Geo Gomez

Joining the ranks of other campus writing groups, such as Grinnell Monologues, Zoe Schattenburg ’17 and Rebekah Rennick ’17 are forming the Grinnell Slam Team to bring together writers interested in the visceral, honest possibilities of slam poetry performance.

Slam poetry has seen a strong revival movement in the recent millennium, a trend evident in the visitors Grinnell has brought to campus in recent years. Last year, highly renowned slam poet Andrew Gibson was brought to Grinnell to perform as part of the Writers@Grinnell series. The commencement speaker for the class of 2013, Sarah Kay, was also a slam poet and received a warm reception from Grinnellians.

Schattenburg and Rennick were inspired to start the GST after experiencing slam poetry in high school. Schattenburg described how she would watch slam videos on YouTube when she felt stressed and eventually began to write poetry herself.

“A spoken word group came to my high school. They started a group senior year, and we went to [Louder Than a Bomb] Boston,” Schattenburg said. “It’s an amazing experience, it’s a really cool community to be a part of.”

First organized by Kevin Coval in 2001 in Chicago, the Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) festival brought together local youth from all walks and zip codes of life and allowed them to share their stories with one another and the Chicago community. The festival now has multiple locations, and the Chicago festival is the largest gathering of youth poetry in the world.

Schattenburg and Rennick hope that Grinnell’s open-minded community will allow for this kind of creative community to bloom. Grinnell has a strong writing culture, with its nationally-recognized literary publication “The Grinnell Review,” as well as the Writers@Grinnell program, which brings acclaimed authors to campus.

“I posted on the 2017 Facebook page. It seemed that there were a lot of people at Grinnell that would be interested in spoken word,” Rennick said. “The Grinnell community has such an incredible creative environment and it would be great for slam.”

Many slam poetry teams focus on the competitive aspect of slam poetry, but as the group first starts up, Schattenburg and Rennick are just aiming to create a creative environment that fosters the spirit of slam before they go toe-to-toe with another school in a collegiate competition. They are looking for a variety of styles and experience levels to make the most of this creative community.

“It’s such a diverse art. It can be very musically oriented, or lyrically orientated and there’s such a wide spectrum that it pulls in such a wide range of people,” Schattenburg said. “Whatever stage you are at, we want to hear what you’ve been working on. We want to listen if you want feedback.”

The two also want to engage with the greater Grinnell community through the local high school.

“We want to get involved with the high school and hopefully perform for them,” Schattenburg said. “We’re not close to Chicago, but if we could get a group of high schoolers that were interested in spoken word and wanted to write to go to LTAB, I would be so open to go. That would be really cool to give back.”

The duo also hopes the team will perform at Bob’s Open Mics and other public shows.

“Historically, part of slam is to have slams in public spaces. If [we] have a big enough group, we could meet at the JRC and have a slam. It’s a very public art form. Bringing expression and art to, not just our group, but branch out and be in a public space,” Rennick said.

For more information on Slam Team, email [rennickr17] or [schatten17].

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