Free speech honored in slam poetry event

This year’s slam poetry winner celebrates Free Speech Week with an enthralling and thought-provoking piece.

Celebrating Free Speech Week, The Sandspur and the communications honor society Lambda Pi Eta hosted a poetry slam on Monday, October 19. The winner was Curtis X Meyer, a seasoned slam poet in the area. The competition was open to Rollins students as well as the Winter Park community. Participants came into the Bush Auditorium, filled out a thought bubble explaining why free speech is important to them, and mingled with one another before the slam began. Like any Sandspur-hosted event, of course there was free pizza provided.

The Winter Park community members—who by far outnumbered Rollins students in the auditorium—were all from an informal local poetry organization founded by Meyer entitled S.A.F.E.! Words! Poetry! Slam! The group urges slam poets to develop their writing as well as encouraging more academic poets to embrace their performative side, all in the aim of broadening the poets’ audiences. S.A.F.E.! meets at the Milk Bar, alternating between open and themed submissions. From time to time they also host guests who give TEDtalk-like speeches.

Clearly these organized slam poets of central Florida are doing something right because each performance was filled with passion and vigor—from an altered Lord’s Prayer to affairs of the heart to Meyer’s thought-provoking piece. Meyer’s official title is “Slam Master,” and he’s clearly earned it. He has a poetry collection, Ride The ¥€$, and two spoken word CDs, Certainty and Rant Down Babylon.

Though The Sandspur does not typically publish creative writing, the paper agreed to print the contest’s winning poem to promote free speech.

The winning slam-poem, reprinted below with Meyer’s permission, begins with a haiku/senryu by Charles Ellik. 

Being Crude
Copyright © 2008 by Curtis X Meyer

“In a thousand years
all the soldiers of this war
will come back as oil.”

I was born of darkness,
and thus darkness I became.

I am known by many names—Black Gold, Texas Tea.
A composite ghost of all human history ground upinto liquid shadow.
When Mother Nature cries, I am the mucus in her throat.
So spare me your crude remarks—pun intended.

You, who curse me while I grease the feathers
of your shorebirds and the fur of marine mammals.
Your tycoons all but suck me dripping off their fingers
like mother’s milk. Fresh cider. Sap from The Tree of Knowledge.

You walk across my back all day.
Surface me gurgling from your rigs.
Cage me in drums, pipelines, and pumps.
Know I will not be contained—I, who come from fire.
I course through the veins of the phoenix.
From my bubbles: The foundations of your progress.

– Ladders of society made from bones.
– Cities built on the skeletons of rivals.
– Dreams fulfilled.
– Ocean floors drilled.

I spill to build.
I was built to spill.

I have been here before you.
Watched all your lively subcultures
and petty holocausts.

Speak not to me of water. We get along just fine—
so long as it doesn’t forget its place: Beneath me.
Make no mistake, I was made to rise.

Speak not to me of the soul.
I am what flesh knows of purgatory.
Gaze upon me and face your future reflection as fertilizer.

I am the remains of dinosaurs. Your great-grandparents.
My blood cells: The corpses of trilobites and extinct ferns.
My skin: Minerals recycled. Dust inhaled from the dawn of time.

Tell me dirt and grime serve no place in sanitation
when I thrive in your detergents. The glycerin in your toothpaste.
The body and nylon bristles of your toothbrush.

I remember my darkness once lit your lanterns.
How ironic that the lightning you harness
be deemed unworthy of your cars.
How poetic that you race towards tomorrow
on the ashes of your ancestors.

Tell me you’ve never made a deal
with the devil when your vehicles
run on the soup of Hell.

I am the great equalizer.
All colors mix into black upon my canvas.
It is I who turns your blood against itself.
Yet you squander me for your petroleum products.
Your precious paints, plastics, and fossil fuels.

Speak not to me of water.
I am thicker than blood.

You, who cling to your weapons.
Who claim to not fear death. To know no retreat.
Who die so that others may baptize themselves in my body
—eventually your own—
what makes you think you can outrun destiny?

Tell me, what makes you think
you’re slicker than me

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