Poetry nights celebrate identity, expression

In celebration of National Poetry Month, the K-State American Ethnic Studies Student Association is hosting open mic nights and poetry slam every Thursday evening this month that will lead up to the final poetry slam on April 29th. Shaun Dowdell, senior in American ethnic studies and president of the association, chalks in front of the Derby Dining Center on April 22, 2015. (Vail Moshiri | The Collegian)

April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate, the American Ethnic Studies Student Association is hosting an open mic night every Thursday evening this month leading up to a final poetry slam next Thursday.

“The ‘Hi I Am Poetry Slam’ is a slam where people talk about their identity,” said Shaun Dowdell, senior in American ethnic studies and president of the association. “So we want people to spend three minutes and basically describe who they are based off of their experiences. If people discuss themselves and who they are, then we might be able to get a better grasp for that person. You feel that person’s struggle, and it’s not just them struggling; you’re struggling collectively in the audience with them. It’s going to be a very unique experience for people.”

In order to participate in the poetry slam, poets must audition during one open mic night, which are held every Thursday evening in Hale Library. Ten participants will be selected from these events.

“This event appealed to me because I love poetry,” Curtis Wilson, freshman in open option, said. “It can tell a lot about a person and show you what they’re going through or how they feel about something.”

With the American Ethnic Studies Student Association, the American ethnic studies and English department hope to create an outlet for the campus as a community.

For Valerie Corpening, junior in american ethnic studies, the association gives her an environment and the freedom to express who she is.

“(It’s) a place where you can be comfortable while your surroundings are diverse,” Corpening said. “It means future leaders in multicultural studies and diverse high political positions. AESSA is a look at the future.”

Dowdell said the organization had protested cases where individuals were killed by law enforcement in recent years, and supports a message of accepting people for who they are.

“We all have different backgrounds, but when do we take charge?” Dowel said. “When do we send out a message? When do we hold ourselves accountable and hold the police accountable? So how does your identity affect you? When it comes to (the murder of Walter Scott), again, this isn’t something that just started; it’s happening and it just happened. How does this relate to your identity?”

The poetry slam will consist of two rounds. In the first round the poets will have a few minutes to present an original poem beginning with “Hi I Am … ” and the four highest scores will advance. During the second round, poets will have five minutes to perform any original poem related to their identity and the top four scorers will receive cash prizes of $25, $50, $75 and $100, respectively.

The third open mic will take place tonight from 6-8 p.m. in room 301 at Hale Library. Next Thursday’s final poetry slam will be at 7:30-9 p.m. in the K-State Student Union’s Cottonwood Room.