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Behind the Scenes: Third Annual Knockout Poetry Jam

On Friday night, students filed into the De Neve Auditorium to listen to some of the best spoken word poets UCLA has to offer. The 3rd Annual Knockout Poetry Jam was put on by SANAA (Social Awareness Network for Activism through Art) in alliance with On-Campus Housing Council. The theme of the night was “visibility,” and all of the works dealt with issues ranging from racial injustices to discovering one’s own identity.

Here is a short excerpt from Laura Sermeno’s poem, “High”:

Music allows me to feel.
This moment is the pinnacle of the universe.
Chaos versus order is against nature.
The beauty of human existence,
We are the dripping life of existence.

Above right: Joanna Bateman (left) and Kaitlin Huwe (right) perform a song at the poetry jam.

The night concluded with a performance from the featured poet, Ise Lyfe, who won the National Poetry Slam Competition in 2001 and has been featured on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO. During Lfye’s hour-long set, he delivered a powerful message that was at times humorous, in particular his discussion of the absurd usage of”LOL” in texts (because, honestly, no one ever actually laughs out loud at whatever it was you texted).

Lyfe also discussed darker, more thought-provoking issues. His retelling of the story of Oscar Grant, a boy shot by a police officer who was later sentenced to seven months in prison for involuntary manslaughter, was moving.

Mojo caught up with one of the performers, Semaj Earl, a first-year cultural anthropology student. She performed two poems for the event: “Anorexia Nervosa” and “Poet’s Pain.”

Mojo: So how did you get involved with all of this?

Semaj: I’ve been a poet my whole life, and so anything that comes up with poetry I would be interested in. So I got an invitation from one of my peer learning facilitators in the freshman summer program. So he invited me to this, and I auditioned, and I was selected to perform.

Mojo: And what was the inspiration for the poems you read tonight?

Earl: [Regarding "Anorexia Nervosa"] There are a lot of people who struggle with eating disorders, and no one wants to talk about it. I figured I would write a poem that would touch on that topic.

[Regarding "Poet's Pain"] And then the other piece I did was because everybody listens to poetry, but no one really understands the poet. You carry your scars around like open wounds…You never really heal from the things you’ve been through. You use yourself as a vessel to share with other people.

Do you have any poetry you want to share with the world? Comment below or tweet @dbmojo with any poetry you have up your sleeve.

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