Published April 27th, 2016, Mario Granados, Staff Writer
California Lutheran University invited David A. Romero, a Mexican-American spoken-word artist, hosted a slam poetry competition at the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art on April 21. The event allowed students and the surrounding community to showcase their written talent, experience Romero’s own work and win gift cards based on the scores from a panel of judges.
According to Cal Lutheran’s Hub page online, Romero “performs on college campuses across the country and has appeared multiple times on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles.”
Matt Sedillo, a national slam poet, co-hosted with Romero to help tally up the votes and to share more poetry.
“College campuses are a fertile ground for the arts. In many ways, slam poetry is considered a low art form, but here we are performing in an art gallery. Finding oneself through the process of creating art is key,” Romero said.
In order to make the participants feel more at ease, Romero decided to offer himself up as the sacrificial poet. His poems, “Make Me More Mexican” and “My Name is Romero, Because It Is” spoke about the difficulty of assimilating into one culture, while not forgetting where one comes from. Amid frequent snaps and cheers, each participant went up to recite their poems.
According to Romero, his poetry contains themes of identity and generational angst tied to being a minority. He said he hopes the high energy of the event and his performance prompts more students to get involved within the larger community to tell the stories that matter.
“[Spoken word] is an immediately accessible art form. It’s very important to build community and be intentional about that. The more you hear each other’s voices, the more they become a chorus. Everyone has a song in their heart,” Sedillo said.
The event was coordinated by Rachel Schmid, the curator for the gallery, as an incentive to promote poetry as a form of art to the campus community.
The performances were divided into three rounds and participants who got the highest scores advanced forward. Some of them had to leave early so they were disqualified, and others only brought one poem to showcase as the votes were being counted.
“Interestingly enough, David and I went to high school together. I really like that he has a focus on Latino and Chicano studies. I think it’s very important for the CLU community and also the larger Thousand Oaks community to have some exposure to this type of poetry,” Schmid said.
One by one, the participants went up at random and recited their pieces. Some dealt with the turbulent experiences of heartbreak while others explored the more culturally rooted themes of family. There was even a participant who wrote a three-page poem about Kobe Bryant’s departure from The Lakers.
When there were only three participants left, the poems tugged at the heartstrings. One poem talked about a newborn son, another talked about an absent father and the last one talked about a lost lover. First and second place went to members of the community, while third place went to sophomore student Lara Santos.
“It was a little nerve wracking because it was the first I’ve ever done slam poetry, but it was exciting and I liked listening to everybody. Writing was the only way I ever felt more adept than any other creative expression,” Santos said.
The event ended with a quick photo-op of the three winners.
“[College] is the time where students are still crafting ideas and exploring different identities,” Romero said. “[Spoken word] is a powerful way to tell stories.”