VCU’s slam poetry team Good Clear Sound participated in the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational April 6 – 9 at the University of Texas, ranking ninth in the international competition and receiving the fifth highest cumulative score.
In addition to a strong team performance, VCU received its first individual superlative with senior Marvin Hodges earning the award for Best Poet.
CUPSI is an annual, worldwide poetry slam tournament. This year’s event featured the largest selection of teams, with 67 schools across the globe present to compete.
Since they began participating, Good Clear Sound has always ranked in the top ten. In 2013 they ranked third, second place in 2014 and in 2015, when the finals were hosted by VCU at the Altria Theater, they ranked second again.
The selection of judges played an impact in this year’s results. When VCU hosted last year, people associated with Good Clear Sound and faculty at the university helped find judges. This year in Austin, CUPSI organizers selected judged instead of the host university.
“With Richmond in general, there’s a huge poetry scene and there are judges and people who listened to poetry before and knew how competition goes and all the specifics for what it takes to be a judge,” said VCU junior Maiya Pittman. “In Austin, they didn’t have that kind of experience.”
Pittman said she also felt this year’s competition had a lot of moving and powerful slams that needed to be heard.
“Some other stories need to make their way to the stage and I think it was just the case that happened this year, as far as the competition goes,” Pittman said.
Pittman typically slams about being a woman, her blackness, the Black Lives Matter movement and mental health.
“I get on the stage and I get to complain in a very artistic way,” she said.
The award-winning Hodges said he didn’t begin taking writing seriously until last year.
“People were moulding me to find that out about myself,” Hodges said. “Two years ago, a friend had been talking to me over the summer, and he was like ‘I feel like you write,’ and I was like, ‘Nah.’” He pushed me to start slamming and then on it became a really important thing in my life that I had no idea could be.”
Sophomore Em Allison grew up with an interest in poetry, and when she was 16 she joined Teens With a Purpose in Norfolk, which held a teen version of CUPSI over the summer.
Allison said Teens With a Purpose helped her focus more on poetry by expressing herself and discovering who she was. She spent two years as a member on the team and one summer as a coach, but said she plans on taking a break from slamming next school year.
“I needed to slam until I got everything I needed to get out of it,” Allison said.
Next year, Allison said she hopes to work in the administration aspect and help more with the hosting and planning of events.
“I think it’s really cool to make it happen for others who love the art as well,” she said.
Good Clear Sound holds open mic nights every other Monday in the Commons Underground, which are open to dancing, singing, poetry, rap, monologues and any other form of artistic expression.
Staff Writer, Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a sophomore print/online journalism major with a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter, covering soccer, basketball and baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn