April 17th, 2019
This past Sunday, poets and poetry lovers attended the Second Annual Sean McCarthy Poetry Slam at the Tappan Free Library. Eight writers competed in a tournament for $100.
Devon Shafer took home the cash prize and bragging rights.
At 2:30, the Emcee, Bryan Roessel, commenced the tournament.
Eight names were randomly drawn to determine which poets would get to compete. The poets who did not get picked were entered in a second lottery for the chance to read their work in an Open Mic between each round while votes were being counted.
Each contestant had to come prepared with three original poems. The poems had to be three minutes or shorter, and could not include any props, costumes, or noise tracks.
The audience was reminded to turn off their cellphones to avoid interrupting the event. Bryan also gave the crowd a trigger warning since it was an open reading and the poets could discuss sensitive and upsetting topics.
Jimmy McAllister, a contestant and student at Pearl River High School, explained that slam poetry is when “we write poems and it’s based on the performance of those poems. So any poem can be a slam poem, but it matters how you deliver it.”
“It gives us access to stories we don’t have the opportunity to live. Sometimes it shows us we’re not alone.”Bryan Roessel
The poems presented throughout the day delve into politics, racism, sexual harassment, heartbreak, family hardships, and other pressing topics.
All eight of the poets picked read in the first round. Once the last poet read, it was time for the audience to vote. Everyone in the room-except the competitors-was given a slip where they could write up to 7 names to vote for who they wanted to see more from.
After Devon, Owen, Angelica, Keya, Zina, Nikki, Jimmy, and Adam delivered their pieces, the audience made their decisions.
Owen, Adam, Nikki, and Devon were advancing to next round.
After the four contestants presented their second poems, Bryan reminded the audience to focus on the work presented in the current round for voting consideration.
Four became two as Devon and Adam were the last poets standing.
Adam and Devon presented their final poems to the audience. Both poems were deeply personal; Devon addressed coming-of-age while handling a panic disorder, sexuality, and harassment, and Adam communicated the aftermath of heartbreak and desperation to love again.
After a tight vote, Bryan announced the results. Owen was recognized for third place, Adam was appointed second, and Devon took home the win.
Sean McCarthy adored writing poems. He passed away at a young age in 1974, and his parents started a poetry fund to honor his passion.
This is the second Poetry Slam in Sean’s honor, and his brother, Eric, read one of his poems at the event.
Snaps All Around
The audience filled the room with laughs, snaps, claps,and gasps for the vulnerable poets during the event.
Professor Staci Schultz from Saint Thomas Aquinas College came to the Slam to watch her students. She does not teach Creative Writing, but she enthusiastically encouraged students from her American Literature and Creative Non-fiction classes to take part in the Slam.
The Rockland Poets host Open Mic nights and Poetry Slams monthly in Suffern and Nyack. To learn about their upcoming events, you can:
Follow @rocklandpoets on Instagram
“Like” the Rockland Poets page on Facebook
The Tappan and Palisades Free Library also holds many events; visit
http://palisadeslibrary.org/ for more information.