Poetry Slam to be held at Max Bar and Grill

Emma Gardner, Staff Writer

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Freshman Jamie Janousek sits on the edge of her seat. Her knee is bouncing, as she frantically sifts through the pages of poems she wrote in anticipation for this moment. Emcee Eddie Elfers calls her name, and a sudden burst of adrenaline courses through her veins. The moment has finally come.

Wayne is the home to the longest running poetry slam in the state of Nebraska. Professors of poetry workshops encourage their students to read their poems at the slam. Community members, students, professors, and alumni crowd into the back room of The Max Bar and Grill and sit shoulder to shoulder to spectate and participate in the magic of the slam.

“The first downtown slam was in the spring of 1999, a fitting end to the old millennium and a nice kickoff to the new,” JV Brummels, former WSC English professor, said.

Since the spring of 1999, the poetry slam has been held biannually, once in the fall and once in the spring semester. Students enrolled in poetry workshops were encouraged, and sometimes required, by their professors to read at the slams.

However, the slam is open for more than just poetry students, and anyone can participate in the slam. It only costs $5 to enter in four poems.

Sharon Cole is an adjunct professor for the Language and Literature department at WSC. Cole attended her first WSC poetry slam in the fall of 2013, and she has been enamored ever since. Since then, she has been a spectator, slammer, and now the professor in charge of making the event run smoothly.

“It’s surreal to be on the teaching end of this,” Cole said.

For the most part, the slams are about expression. Poetry workshops are offered year-round as a general education course, which brings in students of all majors into the world of poetry.

“The slams hold importance to our department because we are giving these students a chance to have a voice, to express themselves and to show us what they’ve made of themselves among our workshops,” Cole said.

FCS major Jamie Janousek was enrolled in a poetry workshop her freshman year and eventually participated in the poetry slam.

“You go in there and you may know some people, you may not, but you’re able to just connect with everyone because you’re there to listen to poetry,” Janousek said. “Even though it is a competition, it’s such a fun and uplifting environment.”

Before the workshop, Janousek had never written any poetry. Yet, she was called up to read another poem in the second round of the slam, and now she is dedicated supporter of the slams each year.

“My favorite part is seeing that poetry student, that freshman going up on a stage for the very first time in their lives and reading us a piece of themselves,” Cole said. “You can see how ecstatic they are to be up there, and it makes me so proud of the legacy of the slams, for giving this opportunity to so many to put themselves out there.”

Katie Flower, an editing and publishing minor, is this year’s “slam master.” Flower said being slam master entails making posters, asking for donations, picking a slam theme, finding an emcee and entertainment.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’re still getting a turn out and people willing to participate,” Flower said. “There are football games and sports and stuff, but this is an arts event. It’s really nice to see that this community supports almost all of what we do as a college.”

One of the biggest, and possibly most overlooked supporters of the slams is The Max Bar and Grill. Each year they host the event in their back room and feed all the anxious slammers who arrive hours early to get a good seat.

“One of the best parts of the slam is noshing on some fabulously greasy bar food before spilling your soul in front of a bunch of strangers,” Cole said.

“What was, and continues to be, best in the slams are the surprises, when very young poets I’ve known only in a workshop appear to visibly grow in the spotlight, finding their voice to speak their piece to an attentive crowd,” Brummels said. “That moment, when an unprepossessing student morphs into a poet capable of dictating when the audience breathes, is magical.”

The next poetry slam will be Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Max Bar and Grill.

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