The Department of Languages and Culture Studies presented its fifth annual Multi-Language Poetry Slam Feb. 20 in the Cone University Center. Around 30 students presented poetry in seven different languages to a full house of peers in Cone’s After Hours.
Students presented under three categories: translation of a published poem, original poetry and haiku. From each category came a first place winner and runner up, who were chosen by faculty and guest judges, including guest poet and the founder of the inspirational movement I Choose Me #NoMoreExcuses, Precious Pauling.
The first place “Original Poem” winner was Adriana Chrestler. She spoke in her native Portuguese in her poem entitled “Criança Abandonada” (“Abandoned Child”) which depicted an encounter with an abandoned boy she came across in her home country, Brazil. First place “Translation” winner was Tumisang Mabaso, who translated a Keh Mukarni poem (a dialogue-based poem which originated in 11th century India) from English into her second language, Japanese. First place “Haiku” winner was Cullen Fisher, who presented an original Senryuu (Japanese-style poem similar to a haiku) in English.
It was wonderful to see an audience so enthusiastic about poetry and language, and to see so many students excited enough to share this enthusiasm onstage. Students presented in a diverse range of languages, from Spanish to Chinese to Yiddish, with some students presenting in their native languages and others in a second language.
The concept of this event was great and the presentations were well received by the audience, although in general there could have been a few tweaks made to make the evening run a little more smoothly. Mainly, the issue had to do with the individual performances: many of the performers could have used a little more rehearsal. Many, whether in their native or second language, stumbled over several words or lines, which made it occasionally difficult to listen to as an audience member. Even those who were reading their poems, unmemorized, sometimes had issues. This could easily be fixed individually with just a little more practice. Perhaps next time, the Department of Languages and Culture Studies should emphasize an amount of practice time for a performer before he or she presents, as to avoid a drag in the pace. Another thing to do to keep the pace up would be to limit the amount of small talk that the presenter can make with the audience. In order to keep things moving smoothly, it might be better for presenters to just enter onto the stage, state their name and poem title, and jump right into the poem. Instead, some presenters asked how the audience was doing, commented on the weather, etc. — another thing that the organizers of the event could help emphasize through instruction.
While it could have used these alterations, overall, the event was a demonstration of the best and most unique parts of America, a country where all languages can be spoken and all cultures are welcome. It also displayed the uniqueness of UNC Charlotte, the state’s most diverse public university. With a current presidential administration so bent on pushing other languages and cultures out, it’s nice to be in a room with people who are genuinely interested in and supportive of cultural and linguistic diversity.