Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Community poetry slam to continue in fall semester

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In an attempt to bring together the community and an appreciation for poetry, Southeast graduate student, Mary Christy, has put on the “organizer hat” and pulled all the strings necessary to make happen the ever-so-successful Words on Fire! Poetry Slam.

Not a seat was left unoccupied on the evening of July 10 when the monthly poetry slam took place at local restaurant and coffee shop, Cup ‘n Cork. Poets from all over Southeast Missouri showed up to read their original work in a friendly competition of three rounds.

The volunteer judges among those seated in the outdoor courtyard were President Carlos Vargas, Dr. James Brubaker and Dr. Dan Crocker. Brubaker said each reading in the round was scored on a scale of 1-10, the rating based on a balance between performance and strength of the poem itself.

Christy said she wanted to bridge the gap between the literary crowd at the university and the community. The event, although not exclusive to the university, featured many students who came out to participate, support a friend or just enjoy the summer evening and a cold drink.

First place winner, Andy Dodson reads his poem, "The Old Man's Leather Jacket" at the Words on Fire! poetry slam on July 10, 2017.
Photo by Rachael Long.

Participants weren’t afraid to dabble in taboo subjects like drugs, religion and depression. Southeast Missouri State University graduate assistant Andy Dodson spent round two sharing the realities he lived of being the atheist son of a Southern Baptist minister in a poem entitled “The Old Man’s Leather Jacket.”

Dodson said he drew most of the inspiration for that poem from his conflicting love and hate for where he grew up.

All ages were welcome to participate and a large variation did. The four poets were undergraduate and graduate poets, a mother and even a high-school student took part in the competition.

Participant Emilie Swafford is a senior studying English writing at Southeast.

In a work entitled, “Poetry Porn,” Swafford grappled with the anguish she feels as a poet and featured the lines, “I used to want to be a poet, but now I just want to be better” and “has a poem ever been all that you have left?”

The youngest participant, Maria McNally, is a junior in high school and entered the competition at the last minute.

Perhaps the most freshly-written of all the participants’ work, McNally said she wrote all three of her poems that day and even had to improve half of one.

“I draw from life experiences, and I read a lot, so of course I draw from books and poetry,” McNally said.

Heavy subjects quickly became a theme throughout the competition, a theme the audience reacted to through applause in the courtyard.

“You may think poets are more suicidal than the average human. No, they’re just braver than the average human,” Christy said.

As is true in any competition, a winner had to be named at the end of the evening, but the judges were torn. Their scores revealed a tie for both first and second place. At second place, Rachel Ashworth and McNally. In first place were the other contestants, Swafford and Dodson.

The judges attributed the tie solely to the luck of the numbers and said they enjoyed the range of ages and experience levels present at the slam.

Christy said the Words on Fire! poetry slam will continue for the remainder of the summer and into the fall on a monthly basis in cooperation with future Journey Literary readings.

For more information on the Words on Fire! Poetry Slam, contact Christy at