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USF English undergrad makes finals in FEMS Slam Poetry Tournament

BOSTON – University of South Florida English undergraduate Sara Hammami made the finals in the Solo Poets category of the Feminine Empowerment Movement’s Slam (FEMS) Poetry Tournament that took place Oct. 18-20. For this article, we asked Hammami about what it’s like to compete in the FEMS tournament.

Can you tell us a bit about what a poetry slam is, as well as the specifics of the FEMS tournament?
PowerPoetry defines slam poetry as “... competition where people read their poems without props, costumes, or music.” There is no “right” way to perform, which lets poets show off their creativity in absolutely breathtaking ways. I saw a group piece done that incorporated choreography to their poem! It was so much fun; everyone in the audience was entranced.

FEMS emphasizes inclusivity, accessibility and empowering feminine artists. Their mission statement reads, “To empower, create space for, and celebrate feminine people and voices through poetry.” Anyone is allowed and encouraged to participate, but the mic is reserved for feminine voices. FEMS provides opportunities for non-competitors to read at open mics, along with attending workshops throughout the weekend!

Why did you want to participate in this tournament?
I really just wanted to put myself out there. I wanted to see what the poetry community looked like outside of the small circle that I operate in, and I was also very excited to hear and learn from other talented poets! My number one goal was to look for community, and I am so happy that I was able to find it. 

Tell us about your poem.
I read one poem per preliminary round (there are two), participated in the multiple open mics hosted throughout the weekend, and finished by reading three different poems for finals. I think that much of my poetry focuses on identity, healing, the merging of cultures. I am hesitant to summarize the group of poems that I performed together because I think they are all very different from each other, but I hope that they are soothing and healing for anyone who reads/listens to my work. 

What did you take away from the tournament?
This was difficult to answer. I left FEMS filled with all the dazzling energy that was inherent to it and months later, I can still feel it. When I think about FEMS and everyone I met there, I think of kindness. Everyone was so lovely to everyone else; it was such a beautiful place to be in.

I’m so grateful that I got to experience FEMS as my first slam, because the community there is unparalleled. People that I had just met offered to help me with my later performances, offered me advice, invited me to hang out, and exchanged information with me to keep in touch later.

Even though everyone was competing against each other, there was still such kindness and patience in all the interactions I had. It was incredibly welcoming - so rooted in raising people up. I have always wanted that kind of compassion in artist spaces, but have never seen it modeled so well. I have aspired to bring that kind of energy to every space I’ve been in since. 

What advice do you have for those who want to get into slam poetry?
You could watch other performers through YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, in person, or whatever other methods you have to immerse yourself in that space. Soak in as much as you can — take notes: of what you like, don’t like, their body language, rhythm. When you talk, pay attention to your natural rhythm and body language. Incorporate that in your work — if you want.

Slamming is a cross between storytelling and acting, so you can also create an entirely different persona behind the mic. Google has a wealth of information on how to make your performances stronger, and there are so many threads you can follow to personalize your style.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. There’s no wrong way to do this. Most importantly, have fun! 

Is there anything else you want to add?

All progress is good progress. Small steps are great. If you’re too scared to submit, or read, or slam, that’s okay. Make yourself some goals and a plan on how to reach them, ask for help or support. You’ll absolutely get there. As long as you put your genuine self out there with good intention, you’ll be received with positivity, kindness, and wonderful energy. I hope that I get to share a space with you soon!

Filed under:Arts and Sciences English    
Author:Jenny Tavery & Alexis White