6A - Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
College slam comes home to A2
Competition gets hike to Houston for a chance to
watch these epic battles unfold.
poetic at CUPSI Instead, the nation's largest col-
legiate team poetry slam will
this week return home this week to its
birthplace - Ann Arbor.
By LAUREN CASERTA The College Unions Poetry
Daily Arts Writer Slam Invitational (CUPSI) is an
annual competition that brings
it's that time of the year again. together teams of poets for four
Time for teams and their coach- nights of creative expression and
es to gather friendly competition. Founded
from colleg- Colg Unions in 2001 with seven teams, slam
es across the participation has since bal-
country for Poetry Slam looned to include roughly 40 col-
relentless Invitational lege groups.
head-to- "This year we'll have the larg-
head rounds Tomorrow est number of teams to date,"
as rowdy through April 9 said program leader and CUPSI
audiences At UMMA the Union founder Robb Thibault. "There's
cheer on al Mgoingto be a wonderful variety of
their peers and he League returning colleges from around
and heckle Free the nation, as well as some local
scorekeep- Michigan schools that I've never
ers. But you won't need to hitch- seen participate before, so it's
going to be very exciting."
Thibault started playing with
the idea of a collegiate slam com-
petition in 2000 as he experi-
mented with weekly poetry
readings while working at the
"I kept thinking that it would
be a cool thing to do on a cam-
pus, since it's a can't-miss kind of
thing," Thibault said. "We start-
ed a fall poetry reading program
to see if it would appeal to Mich-
igan students and we ended up
getting 700 people every other
Wednesday on a regular basis."
The slam itself features
rounds known as "bouts," in
which teams of four or five poets
compete using a unique scor-
ing system. Each poet has three
minutes to perform an original
piece, and each poem is given
five scores - the middle three
are added together to give an
overall score. Groups of up to
four people may read at the
same time, but any use of music,
costumes or props is prohib-
ited. The teams with the high-
est collection of scores progress
through four days of competi-
tion to a championship round.
The slam's scoring method is
unconventional and often con-
troversial - five random mem-
bers of the audience are selected
before the start of the competi-
tion to act as judges, doling out
scores ranging from zero to 10.
These scores are often contested,
and audience members are not
shy about their feelings regard-
ing the judges' choices.
"These judges are charged
with the sacred honor of hav-
ing to give numbers to words,"
Thibault said. "Sometimes
they're highly praised for their
valuable scoring, but sometimes,
when the crowd doesn't like
what they see, they're scorned.
The judges play a great role in
the slam and they cause a great
deal of concern, and no one
seems to like them in the end."
Thibault is quick to remind
his participants that, despite the
competitive nature of the slam,
the presentation of the event as
a gathering of poets and poetry
aficionados is the true goal of the
"The poetry itself is really
what matters," Thibault said.
"We like to think of the axiom,
'Points are not the point, the
point is poetry.' No matter what,
you're up there doing what you
love and what's most impor-
tant to you artistically and as a
human. That's what it's really
all about: freedom of expression,
creative speech, diversity and
for information on
applying to the Daily's
TV/New Media staff.
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RELEASE DATE- Wednesday, April 6, 2011
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