#bsuenglish student and Reacting Out Loud found Levi Todd shares his impression of the Get Loud Poetry Slam, sponsored by the Marilyn K. Cory Speaker Series, that occurred on October 16th at Two Cats Cafe.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a junior English Studies major at Ball State. I enjoy rock climbing, biking, and am waiting for the day I can adopt a pug named Gus.
What is your connection to Reacting Out Loud?
I am the Founder and Executive Director of ROL. Reacting Out Loud is an independent organization devoted to uplifting poetry and affirming community in Muncie, Indiana. We intentionally deliver our programming to Muncie as a whole and are not campus-affiliated, though we did do a one-time collaboration with #bsuenglish at this last event. We firmly believe that poetry is the most accessible form of self-expression that people have, and that it has the potential to build powerful connections within communities.
What is your connection to the Marilyn K. Cory Speaker Series?
Dr. Emily Rutter was familiar with ROL’s open mics and poetry slams. When she started assembling the list of visiting speakers and settled on the theme of poetry and social justice, she considered hosting a poetry slam with ROL. Poetry slams seem to be magnets for writers speaking on social justice because they can do so in a space that’s receptive to and supportive of their messages. When she extended the opportunity to collaborate with me, I jumped at the chance to get my professors to attend a poetry slam, as it’s not always viewed as academic or worthy in some literary circles.
Could you tell us about the origins for this annual event?
Reacting Out Loud started simply as a poetry open mic. At our first event, we ran out of seats, and I realized how receptive to poetry the community was, especially the way we deliver it. At our events, the audience is encouraged to respond to the poet as they perform by snapping, “mhmm”ing, shouting “Yes poet!”, etc. It’s a really interactive event in which the poet feels truly heard and supported, and the audience has a great time with it. When I realized that that was what people enjoyed at the event, a poetry slam was naturally the next step. The competition style of the event naturally adds a bit of good-natured fun and audience investment, and it breaks down the pretentious barriers that poetry often puts up. The theme of social justice at this latest event fit well with the Cory Speaker Series, but it’s always an underlying theme at slams, it seems.
Approximately how many were in attendance? What was participation like?
We had approximately 120 people attend. (We ran out of chairs and even the space to put new ones. It was definitely a fire hazard but we won’t tell anyone.) I was very happy with the turnout, especially seeing my peers from #bsuenglish—both classmates and professors! Sixteen people read, and our poets brought some really quality work. We also had a lot of new readers reading for their first time at our event. We had a few feminist poems in response to Donald Trump’s latest comments, a few on mental illness, one on the topic of hate crimes and the danger that LGBTQ individuals face…. It’s hard to pinpoint down specific topics because everyone brings a different definition of social justice to the table, as well as their own experiences.
Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?
I’ll be honest, Reacting Out Loud is having growing pains as we figure out how to accommodate our large audiences to our venue, as well as how to improve the quality of our sound. While we had a bit of a technical delay, we appreciated everyone’s patience as we set up our back-up plan speakers. Reacting Out Loud is in this great position where we’re pulling large audiences for our events, and I’ll be more satisfied when we’re able to offer the best quality seating, lighting, sound, etc. This is a good problem to have, but it does mean we’re exploring new partner venues.
How did it compare to the event in previous years?
We’ve hosted three poetry slams now, and each has been unique in its own way. The first one was wonderful simply in the fact that we had such a large turnout and it was a very new opportunity to offer the Muncie community. The second one was fantastic as we hosted slam poets who had recently competed at CUPSI, the largest college poetry slam in the country. This most recent event was particularly special to me, as we had a lot more Muncie community members and youth come out, and our major goal this year has been to make sure we’re reaching out far beyond Ball State.
What are your hopes/goals for the future for ROL?
Reacting Out Loud is expanding beyond the monthly events we host. We’ve recently launched a creative writing workshop and will be debuting a youth education program in 2017. We’re also trying to partner with more Muncie community organizations to further the impact we have and build more structural support for our programming.
Anything else you’d like to add?
ROL is actively seeking new team members to join our organization. In order to accomplish the goals we’ve set for ourselves and to offer the fullest extent of opportunities to Muncie, we need a lot of support. Anyone who is interested in helping us with social media, community outreach, program development, or joining our Executive Board should email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also sign up for our email newsletter here, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @reactingoutloud, and visit our website at www.reactingoutloud.com.