Vulnerability at Villanova and the Power of Poetry


Courtesy of Casey McIntyre

Vulnerability at Villanova and the Power of Poetry

Mary Swikle

On Thursday, April 11, every single chair inside Belle Air Terrace was occupied by snapping fingers and melting hearts as the poets of campus leapt on stage and shared their original work at the 5th Annual Villanova Poetry Slam. Hosted by Villanova Poetry Society, the event entailed two rounds of performances, four judges, one keynote speaker, and 22 vulnerable souls on stage.

Structured in the same format that any professional slam event would follow, competitors were invited in random succession to step up onto the platform and read or recite an original piece. The topic and style of the poetry was unrestricted, and the audience was graced with a wide variety of talent– ranging from comical free verse calling out past boyfriends, to mournful ballads detailing the process of grief, to a chilling mixture of rhythmic lyrics paired with a harmonic chorus. 

Famous Philly poet and host of the evening Kai Davis cracked hilarious jokes in between performances, and later stunned the crowd with a sampling of some poems of her own. It was a night full of both tears and snickers. The atmosphere of the room that students typically associate with basketball portraits and flat screen TVs was transformed into a petri dish of beautiful vulnerability and refreshing honesty. 

While the first round of competition was wholly inclusive, in that all who signed up could participate, the second round brought the five highest-scoring poets back on stage for a chance to shock and awe the crowd once more. Scores were dealt by highly-qualified Villanova professors: Chiji Akoma, Associate Professor Chair of the Department of Global Interdisciplinary Studies; Kamran Javadizadeh, Assistant Professor for the Department of English; Adrienne Perry of the Department of English; and Edward Sobel, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre. Although this star-studded panel of judges did record numerical scores based on both content and performance, the effect of the poetry slam on both audience members and performers is utterly incalculable.

Villanova Poetry Society president Alex Forgione was often seen beaming ear to ear as her fellow executive board members, general club members at large, and even students who signed up independent of the club all took the stage by storm. 

“Villanova doesn’t come off as a creative campus, but so many students here have serious talent,” Alex said. On the club as a whole, Alex adds that “Poetry Society impacted my experience at Villanova by allowing me to write and improve on my poetry, to have fascinating conversations with other students, and to help bring art to our campus.”

Other participants in the competition similarly expressed immense gratitude for the opportunity to share their work. “It is so easy to get caught up in the stress and inner turmoils that come with being a college student, but events like the slam pull students out of themselves by creating pure human connections that raise awareness of what is important,” freshman Bridget Sullivan said. “The members in the club create such a loving and supportive community—one that cultivates freedom of expression.”