Students, teachers and local poets expressed deeply personal stories at annual poetry slam.
By James Dusek
Arthur Flores looked down at the poem he had scrawled on the small dry-erase board in his hand.
“Is life a paradox, or are we just a pair of Docs?” read the computer science freshman at Northwest Vista College.
Flores was the last of four student poets who presented their poems at Northwest Vista’s annual poetry slam on the morning of Oct. 4 in Cyprus Campus Center. Performing along with the students were some more experienced local poets, who attended the event to encourage and inspire the students.
“I think it’s good for students to realize that they have another outlet to have their voices heard,” said Nathan “Nate Zen” Zertuche, a local poet with a slam poetry résumé packed with accolades from local and national competitions.
“When I come to these events, I’m very just thrown back and amazed about how well the writing is,” Zertuche said.
Only one student had signed up to perform at the slam beforehand, said Corina Gonzalez-Stout, coordinator of the college’s Mexican-American studies department and organizer of the event.
Throughout the event, however, emcee and local poet Anthony “The Poet” Flores (no relation) encouraged anyone to come up to read a poem if they so desired — no registration necessary.
Art education sophomore Lucy Sanchez said she didn’t plan on performing, but her friend convinced her to at the last minute.
“If I trusted you, I’d fall; so if I’d fall, I’d want you to catch me,” she said, timidly beginning her short, confessional poem.
Sanchez’s poem about trust and betrayal, like all that were performed for the small crowd of about 25 students and faculty, was clearly deeply personal.
Spoken-word poetry is great for this reason, Zertuche said. Through poetry, he said, students are able to talk about both personal and social issues, and “convey them in such a way that you bring the audience there with you on an emotional level.”
Even students who attended only to spectate the slam ended up participating. When Amanda Flores, a local poet and daughter of the emcee, took the stage, she encouraged everyone to take part in a popular writing exercise, the “six word story.”
The idea, legend holds, originates from a bet made by Ernest Hemingway in a pub, that he could craft a complete story in only six words.
The story Hemingway supposedly wrote was “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
Flores explained the exercise, and after just under two minutes of silence, a student with a bandana tied around his forehead stood up and offered his story.
“I stake, I break, I skate,” he said.
One by one, students and faculty around the room began to share their six-word confessionals.
“Laying down, never sleeping, mostly awakened,” one student read.
“Child is 17 — help my heart,” said Natalia Trevino, an NVC English professor, poet and author. Trevino also performed a poem, which she had promised her students she would do if they performed at the event.
Students interested in spoken-word poetry can visit “Poets of San Antonio” on Facebook to learn about local events and contact Anthony Flores.
This college is also home to the Cheshyre Cheese Club, which regularly hosts open mics for students.