UCCS student helps to bring home national poetry slam win

Sept. 8, 2014

Audrey Jensen
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UCCS senior English major John Parker and five other members of poetry slam team “Hear, Here!” traveled to Oakland, Calif. to compete in the National Poetry Slam from Aug. 5-9 and brought home the first place title in the Group Piece finals.

Of the six members, Parker is the only current UCCS student on the team. He is also involved with the Free Expression Poetry Club on campus, which sent a team to compete in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational this year in Boulder, Colo.

Every third Friday of the month from Aug.-March the Cottonwood Center for the arts holds series of slam poetry competitions to decide team members for “Hear, Here!”

“If you come consistently you accumulate points depending on how you rank,” Parker said. “If you come to last chance slam [at the end of the season] and win then you can compete in team selection slam.”

After the team-selection slam five members and an alternate are chosen.

“Before the team-selection slam, everyone who competed had to sign a contract saying that if they got on the team that they understand how big of a commitment it would be…meeting at least three times a week and contributing $500 for team costs as well as fundraising,” Parker said.

Out of the whole competition, “Hear, Here!” ranked 36 out of 72 teams, but since they won the group piece finals, they were asked to perform the sacrificial performance for the finals that five judges would use as a reference when evaluating the groups competing in the overall finals.

The group-written piece “Earworm” was used for this performance.

“‘Earworm’ is a very triumphant poem,” Parker said, “It talks about how so much of the messages we have make us feel that we are not worth anything…they get stuck in your head the same way a song does.”

Parker and other team members felt that this poem best captured the spirit of “Hear, Here!” for this season, as a serious but uplifting piece. Parker was not introduced to poetry until the end of his freshman year in college. Through YouTube videos of poets such as Buddy Wakefield, Anis Mojgani and Lacey Roop, Parker’s view on poetry was changed.

“I had never seen poetry read like that,” Parker said. “I knew what slam poetry was from the 80’s, like cheesy theater, but his was brutally honest.”

Meanwhile, Parker saw a flyer one day for a Free Expression Poetry Club event on campus and continued to look out for other events on campus. He is now one of the four club officers for the UCCS club.

About a year ago, Parker got involved with “Hear, Here!”

“Luke Cissell knew UCCS Alumni and students and has developed ‘Hear, Here!’ over the past couple of years,” Parker said. “He was really funny and super outgoing and he would talk about ‘Hear, Here!’ [at Free Expression Poetry Club].”

Through “Hear, Here!” and Free Expression Poetry Club Parker has learned what direction he wants to take in life.

“Having the club on campus weekly has been amazing for me to help keep my sanity with stresses of school,” Parker said. “Poetry in Colorado Springs pulled me out of a slump a few years ago, I was very unsure of who I was and what I wanted to do….it wasn’t until I was involved with poetry and sharing it out loud that I discovered a love for writing and not just a talent.”

After graduation this fall, Parker plans on applying for a graduate school program.