UCD students Melissa Ridge and Bonny Tsang are bringing the first competitive poetry slam to UCD on Tuesday 24th February. Melissa Ridge chats to Patrick Kelleher about the event, and its relevance to UCD students.


microphoneUCD students Melissa Ridge and Bonny Tsang are bringing a poetry slam to the university this Tuesday 24th February. A poetry slam is an event at which people read, or perform their poetry for an audience. It is a form of poetry that is becoming increasingly popular, and is considered more accessible than the traditional poetry format.

Melissa Ridge, one of the organisers of the event, explained the difficulties in bringing this form of poetry to UCD students in the past. She says that attempts have been made since September to set this up through various societies, but it didn’t work out. “The societies were useless, so we decided to do it ourselves,” she says.

“I was really surprised, I thought UCD would have a poetry slam, it has everything else. So that was why we set it up, it was a tumble kind of thing, we were involved in the inter-varsity and it had to be there. Students should have the opportunity to pursue spoken word poetry if they want to, it’s a new avenue to poetry, it’s a contemporary kind of a thing, and I think it’s a great opportunity for students.”

Ridge is adamant that this event is open for everyone. “It is for anyone, from the beginners who have never even heard of spoken word poetry to the people who are actually established and have poetry published and all the rest, so it’s for everyone and anyone in UCD.”

Spoken word poetry is vastly different to what most people will be familiar with, as Ridge explains. “People have this idea that poetry is traditional, poetry is boring, they think of Shakespeare, they think of William Blake where it’s all structured into little boxes, whereas spoken word is completely different. Poetry started as lyrics to music, and from there it’s kind of been drawn out, it’s tired. Spoken word poetry is new, it’s fresh, it’s lyrical, it’s musical, it’s the way it flows. People who have never heard spoken word have this idea in their head, and once they hear an actual spoken word poem they’re like ‘oh right, I didn’t think it’d be like that’. So for UCD students I think it’ll be an eye-opener… it’s an opportunity, it’s a new avenue for those who are interested in poetry and literature to dip their toe in.”

Ridge, who hopes that they will be able to become an official UCD society before September, also encourages people to come and listen, even if they don’t want to take part just yet. “Everyone is welcome… People from outside of UCD are coming to see, but only UCD students can perform. But everyone can come and see, it’s an all ages gig, it’s an entertainment act.”

The organisers of the event hope that the poetry slam will become a common feature of the arts in UCD. They aim to have a monthly poetry slam, as well as weekly events, where people can meet and discuss their ideas about spoken word poetry.

While Ridge reiterates that rules are not at the centre of their event, there are some standard slam rules that will apply. These are:

1. All poems must be from memory.
2. Poems can be on any subject and in any style.
3. Poems must be the original work of the performing poet
4. No props, costumes, musical instruments or backing tracks allowed.
5. Performances should not exceed 3 minutes.
6. Only 1 poem per round. If poems are joined together, they will just be judged as one complete work.

Those who are interested in attending can find more information through the Facebook event page, which can be found here.

The poetry slam will take place in UCD in room F104 of Newman Building on Tuesday 24th February, from 6-8pm. There will be a €2 admission charge at the door. Those looking to get involved with the society can email arts@universityobserver.ie, and their details will be forwarded on to the organisers.