October 18, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers students 'make their mark' at Verbal Mayhem's poetry slam

Photo by Cynthia Vasquez |

The Department of Leadership and Experiential Learning and Verbal Mayhem hosted the “My Spoken Mark Poetry Slam,” which sends the winner to the Mark Leadership Conference.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, the Department of Leadership and Experiential Learning and Verbal Mayhem hosted the "My Spoken Mark Poetry Slam" in the Graduate Student Lounge in the College Avenue Student Center. 

Church pew styled rows of love-seat sofas and arm chairs lined the room as students sat next to friends and members of the Verbal Mayhem community for a night of student-inspired performances. Event coordinators from the Mark Leadership Conference passed around complimentary coffee and stickers for students. 

The Mark Conference is a full-day TED-styled event hosted by the Department of Leadership & Experiential Learning that focuses on inspiring students to think critically about the world around them, according to the event's website

The night featured reoccurring themes and discussions of sexual abuse, philosophical introspection and the sorrows of heartbreak.

“It’s a poetry slam and the five performers will be judged and the winner will get to perform at the Mark Conference,” said Ria Rungta, captain of conference logistics in the Mark Leadership Conference and a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

The five poets were chosen from the Verbal Mayhem poetry club on campus and were given the opportunity to perform two poems — one from a topic of their choosing and another about leaving their mark on the world. 

Each poet was given 3 minutes per poem to make a positive impression on the audience and judges. The underlying goal for many competitors was to qualify for the Mark Leadership Conference.

“(Poets) will be judged based on their stage presence, what they’re saying, how they inspire people, so it’s really based on everything,” said Erika Rears, captain of speaker logistics and a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

In between the two rounds of poems, a guest poet, Angelica Maria, performed original work based on her heritage and ethnicity. 

The pieces performed during the competition ranged from subjects like depression and addiction to racism. One poem dealt with how oppressed black women are and another talked about someone’s battle with substance abuse. 

“At the Mark Conference, we bring in a lot of outside speakers to speak to our students about how they leave their mark on society,” said Anthony Tellez, captain of resources and a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

After two rounds of poems and much deliberation from the judges, Mak Singh, a School of Arts and Sciences senior was declared the winner. Singh was invited to perform at the national conference, alongside winners from other universities. 

After the competition concluded, many students stayed after to attend the open mic session, where anyone could go up and perform. 

“This is focusing on our students and how our students are making their mark through spoken word and how they want to leave their mark,” Rears said. 

Shane Garry

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