UT freshman plans student poetry slam

Kat Sampson

Last fall, when art history freshman Nina Unger logged onto Facebook, she spotted a video performance of slam poetry that would eventually lead her to plan and implement her own poetry competition.

The video, which was shared by one of her Facebook friends from the website Upworthy.com, is called “Shrinking Women.” The short video stars college student Lily Myers performing an original slam poetry piece about female expectations and body image. Up until Unger started college, she used ballet and piano as creative outlets, but, after watching Myers, she saw an opportunity for a new creative endeavor. 

“[The poem] is definitely my favorite,” Unger said. “It’s why I got into it. It’s so relatable. It was exactly the moment slam poetry was put on my radar.”

Before seeing “Shrinking Women,” Unger became interested in the Distinguished Speakers Committee when she heard about the “Catfish on Campus” event last year with MTV’s Nev Shulman.

“I’m a fan of the show ‘Catfish,’ so I wanted to see what the process is of getting celebrities like that to come to campus,” Unger said. “That was sort of my reason for joining.”

When discussion began one Tuesday afternoon during a committee meeting for potential events, Unger raised her hand in support at the mention of a slam poetry event. 

This Wednesday, Unger will host the group’s first ever slam poetry competition, Poetry on the Patio. 

“I really wanted to give a new member the chance to plan something, so freshman member Nina Unger took on the challenge,” said Christopher Nickelson, committee member and radio-television-film junior. “She decided that 12 students would compete under the traditional slam poetry rules, we’d have a local Austin slam poet give a performance, and that we would have free coffee and donuts for everyone who came. I’m really looking forward to see the results of her hard work.” 

The event’s speaker is Lacey Roop, a young, Austin-based poet whose own career began in Austin after moving from Mississippi to pursue a career in business. She was studying for an exam one afternoon at a coffee shop when a slam poet came on stage to perform. A week later, Roop drafted what would become the first poem she would perform. 

“I love how language works, so I try to use as much imagery as possible all the while still telling a narrative,” Roop said. “I think there is a misunderstanding around poetry, however. I think many people have this idea of poetry being boring or too difficult to understand. I like to show people how exciting poetry is.”

Students can sign up for one of the 12 open spots starting at 6 p.m. Once the competition is finished, prizes will be awarded, and Roop will perform some of her work. 

Nickelson hopes the event will be successful enough to make it annual. 

“Slam poetry is a big part of the Austin community,” Nickelson said. “I think this event, where students have the opportunity to showcase their talent, just reflects Austin as a whole. And hopefully students who have never experienced this type of poetry before can take away something from the event.”