34th Poetry Slam, Plains Writers set for Thursday

Steele Giles, Staff Writer

Public speaking is scary.

Statistically, it is one of the most common phobias in America. This sounds really weird when you realize that this means there are people who would rather be shot in the throat and left to bleed out before they stand on a stage in front of their peers.

The 34th annual Poetry Slam which is tomorrow (Thursday) and it will put the contestants on a little box of surprising weight in front of more of their peers than they thought could fit into a slightly larger room than their gen-ed psychology classroom.

Before heading down to the back room of The Max, you might want to know what to expect from the event.

First off: the way the lights work, you’re not going to be able to see much past the judge’s table. It isn’t a drastic enough drop in lighting to make it so it looks like you’re alone with three relative strangers, but it’s enough to make it so they’re the only ones you’ll be able to pick out.

The second thing: in spite of being in a room full of people who will occupy varying positions on the spectrum of intoxication, it will be the most welcoming crowd you’ll ever see. I’ve been going to this thing for three years now and I’ve never seen somebody booed off.

You might get a lackluster response, but you won’t get chased off by the spectators. Even if you don’t get the reaction you were looking for, crowd members are good about encouraging readers both before and after.

As for the poetry itself, the topics and styles tend to be a mixed bag, so sticking around long enough means that anyone will hear at least one thing they like. Sometimes there winds up being an underlying theme, if not in topic then in tone, but there’s only so much flexibility the readers get once they arrive.

To participate, bring $5 and four poems to The Max around 6 p.m.

The Plains Writers series is tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the Humanities lounge. It will feature four authors reading from their published works, followed by a brief question-and-answer session. It’s a great way to learn more about the writing process of a professional, or the process of getting published.

Authors Sara Henning and Jim Reese will read at 1 p.m. followed by Mark Sanders and Tom C. Hunley at 2 p.m. Between the two books I could pick up, there’s already quite the eclectic mix of poems coming down the line–topics range from Allen Ginsburg to goulash to the existential confusion of being hopeful and depressed at the same time.

At the very least, going to the Plains Writers series will be an experience you shouldn’t miss. The authors are always awesome people and the questions they answer are frequently either humbling or hilarious.

There was one year the author admitted that he didn’t give his poems titles that correlated to their contents. They were completely random, which makes for hilarious explanations to the editor but also makes it a crapshoot during public readings.