Award-winning poet Carrie Rudzinski brings slam to Rutgers
Many choose to showcase their emotions by writing freely on a page with a desire for their words to be read internally and to resonate on a silenced level. Carrie Rudzinski instead brings her written pieces to life on stage.
Rudzinski, a slam poet, came to Rutgers on Nov. 12 to participate as a performer and judge for “Feed The Poets Presents: My Spoken Mark,” an event sponsored by Rutgers University Student Life Leadership and Training and co-sponsored by the Mark Conference and Verbal Mayhem.
Ranked seventh at the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2013 and fourth in the world at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam, Rudzinski’s exposure to writing was more of an accident at first than an interest.
Rudzinski, who started writing poems for a school assignment at the age of 12, didn’t start performing until her first year at Emerson College, after taking a class called “Poetry as Performance."
The class, which sparked her initial interest in slam poetry, examined the art of spoken word and gave students the ability to watch others perform and as well as the opportunity to memorize their own material.
Rudzinski then took her work beyond the classroom by participating in her first performance at Cantab Lounge in Boston, Massachusetts.
“I don’t remember what my poem was about, but I do remember being so incredibly nervous. My hand was shaking with my notebook in it,” Rudzinski said. “And afterward, sitting down and hearing the applause and having them [say things like] ‘Oh yeah, you can come back next week’ … felt like getting a tattoo — I immediately wanted to do it again.”
Rudzinski’s material for her poetry stems from personal experience. She mainly writes about race, culture, travel, family, heartbreak and love. But her content and performances were not always as honest and open as they are now, she said.
Rudzinski admitted it took a while for her to be emotionally open in front of an audience. Her early writing was very image-heavy to mask what she was really trying to say. As time went on, she became more direct with her words.
“The most important thing to me is being honest in my performance, and if, at the very least, I’m being honest, I’m going to do the poem justice because I’m going to be honoring myself and why I wrote it in the first place,” she said.
Rudzinski has also published two books, “A History Of Silence” and “The Shotgun Speaks.” She stressed that performing poets still want to be considered writers and that putting out a collection is important.
As a judge, Rudzinski looks for honest, good writing and a performance that creates a strong connection with the audience. She also looks for high energy, eye contact and the ability of the person to honor what the poem embodies.
“Think of your nerves as a super power, and you have to use them for good instead of evil … It’s about channeling those nerves to be a like a roller coaster thrill and knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing. I think that intention is important,” Rudzinski said.