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Local venue hosts monthly Poetry Slam

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Rarely does one shout, boo or clap at a poetry reading without getting kicked out.

Yet this is just the sort of behavior encouraged at the Running Water Poetry Slam..

“There are no rules,” said Eau Claire alumnus and emcee Jen Evers. “If you like it, you can cheer. If you don’t, you can boo. If you’ve got something to say, you can say it.”

Poetry slams take place on the last Thursday of each month at the Acoustic Café. This month’s will take place at 7 p.m. today.

There’s three rounds and up to 12 people can sign up to read, UW-Eau Claire senior and former emcee Aryn Widule said, adding that five judges are chosen from the audience. Everyone reads something each round. Based on the judge’s scores, it is cut down to four people who compete in the final round, he said.

“In the past, we’ve had a completely packed house where there’s not enough chairs to go around,” Evers said, adding that recently, turnout has been less due to less advertising of the event.

Prizes are awarded to the top three poets, Evers said. He said the prizes for the event have varied in the past. Today’s prizes will be Acoustic Café gift certificates.

“The style of poetry is a little different,” said senior Patrick Orlopp when comparing poetry slam material to that which is presented at NOTA’s Cabin readings. “Slam poetry is more theatrical.”

Evers said poetry at the slams is geared toward the audience to try and get a reaction from them.

Unlike NOTA readings in The Cabin, the Running Water Poetry Slam is a community event, unaffiliated with the university.

The poetry slam tradition was brought to Eau Claire by Mike and Shannon Paulus about six years ago, Widule said. Mike Paulus works for Volume One Magazine.

“They basically mimicked what was going on in bigger cities,” Widule said.

Paulus turned over the responsibility of running the poetry slams to Widule last February, making him the emcee, Widule said.

“I basically keep everything running smoothly,” he said. “I keep track of scores, introduce people, kind of talk in between to make sure everyone’s interested and having a good time.”

However, due to Widule’s new job, he recently had to hand over the responsibility of emceeing the event.

“If he couldn’t find someone to do it, it would flounder and probably go under which would really be tragic, so he needed someone to step in,” said Orlopp.

Orlopp and Evers have been named the new poetry slam emcees. Thursday will be their first time emceeing, though neither of them are new to performing on the poetry slam stage.

“I have been involved with poetry slams as far as being a competitor since freshman year,” Evers said. “I’m dedicated to it and I think it’s a really great thing for a community to have. I don’t want to see it go away because of lack of interest.”

Orlopp, a regular performer at poetry slams, said that it’s beneficial to poets to be able to read in a professional way.

“If you want to be a poet, you need to know how to read to an audience, theatrically almost,” he said. “Not everyone’s going to like you. You need to learn to deal with an audience that absolutely despises what you’ve done. It hardens you. You’re going to learn how to deal with it.”

Widule agreed.

“Writing is sort of tough to get anywhere with for the most part,” he said. “It’s a really good chance to share the things you’ve written and feelings you’ve had with people who wouldn’t hear it usually. Its sort of an open forum for people.”

Evers said students should come out because it’s fun to hear what other people have to say or write about.

“It’s something that everybody should experience once in their lives,” she said. “It’s a good cultural event that I wish was a little more widespread.”

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The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.
Local venue hosts monthly Poetry Slam