Student “Slammers” Share a Behind-the-Scenes look at their Poetry Process

Kathryn Sturdevant, Herald Contributor

Last Thursday night, the university held the bi-annual Poetry Slam in the GHH Atrium. RWU students Sabrina Sousa and Lauren Calabrese who were in the Slam talked about their poems they presented and answered questions about the process they go through to make their poems. They also offered advice to slam poets who want to audition in the future.

Sousa, a sophomore at RWU, recited a poem called “Self Love.” In the poem, she expresses the way that she feels about her body and what she wishes the future will hold for her.


Sometimes I stare at myself in the mirror

trace my body with cold hands

I squish my sides, suck it all in

pull at my hair and scratch at my skin

And I jump into a boiling hot shower thinking this will keep me clean

I love the way my body looks when I have just woken up

look in a mirror under harsh fluorescent lights and think this is what I should look like

Stomach empty, flat, pretty

I become obsessed with the idea of being thin

When asked about how long had she had been writing poetry for, Sousa said that she began writing last year after she attended a couple of slam poetry events. She loved them so much that they inspired her to write her own poetry.

“Once I started, I couldn’t really stop,” she said. “A lot of people hate their body and to finally say it out in the open when we all know we are thinking about it is powerful.”

When Sousa talked about the process of writing her poem, she said that it was a mixture of emotions that started it off — looking at yourself in the mirror with those good and bad days.

“It was something that I had to get off my chest,” she said.

Sousa wrote the poem in one day last year, but it took time to cut and rearrange a lot of what she had written. She also commented on the experience of presenting her poem, admitting that first-time jitters crept up on her.

“I wasn’t nervous at all during the day, but once I got down there and saw the set up, I was like, ‘oh my god,'” said Sousa.

However, at the end of the Poetry Slam, multiple people told her how wonderful she did.

Sousa offered some helpful tips for anyone interested in slam poetry, and noted that getting critiqued by people who have done it before was a big help for her. She also mentioned a club on campus called “Writers Anonymous,” where people would openly critique her creative work whenever she asked for it.

Lastly, she expressed the power behind poetry itself. She said, “slam poetry is a way for people to get their experiences off their chests and it’s good for us to hear those experiences because that connects us with them.”

Sousa is excited to continue writing poetry and will definitely be in future Poetry Slams.


Senior Lauren Calabrese presented a powerful poem about an incident of sexual harassment and the reaction to society we are experiencing today.

I’m trained to keep my back against the wall

To scout the room for potential criminals

Or presidents

Or athletes of producers or comedians

Or judges.

I was on business: I tell myself

So I didn’t see you coming

Didn’t see you approach

Did not see your hands lift

And grab at my collar,

I don’t know if I’m more mad

I forgot my training or

That I was happy it was only

My collar you grabbed.

Calabrese first started writing poetry two years ago. She always wrote, but she had never really shared her work with anyone. “After seeing the slam my sophomore year, watching online slam/spoken word videos and encouragement from friends, I took the plunge and auditioned and have been enjoying writing poetry ever since,” she said.

Next was about the process that she went through to write her poem. Calabrese said that she went through a lot of different drafts until she felt comfortable.

I like mind-mapping a lot to get my ideas down on paper.” She talked about her ideas that she had going into the poem. “While it is based on something personal that happened to me, the poem really calls attention to the larger idea of the culture we live in, the system that we have created, that allows for people of power, particularly men in power, to commit acts of sexual harassment, violence or assault towards others, particularly women.”

Calabrese also mentioned that she didn’t want to place any pronouns in her poem because she wanted to not only look at women, but to also include men who deal with this harassment.

When she was asked about the effect of slam poetry, she answered by saying, “slam poetry takes words on a page and brings them to life. It gives people a voice to speak their minds and gives voice to those who may be unable to put their thoughts into words — let alone a poem of their own struggles.”

She said that it’s an outlet to let people express their ideas to the world and help people who are willing to listen.

Lastly, she gave her advice for anyone interested in trying slam poetry. She said that it can be daunting at first, but there are a lot of outlets on campus and a part of the slam poetry auditions that help you with critiquing your poem. There’s a workshop before auditioning, and if you just want help or if you want to share your ideas without the composition, she is the host of Writers Anonymous that meets every Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in GHH 105.  

The Poetry Slam was a night that the campus got together and connected with one another’s ideas and words. Overall, it was quite powerful and moving.