Vermillion Literacy Program, Sigma Tau Delta present poetry slam competition
4 mins read

Vermillion Literacy Program, Sigma Tau Delta present poetry slam competition

Two literary groups held an open mic poetry reading and poetry slam in the basement of the Varsity Pub on Main Street this past Thursday.

The Vermillion Literary Program (VLP) and USD’s Sigma Tau Delta came together to express their artistry and voice in competition. There were prizes for the first, second and third place winners in the form of gift cards, usually around $10.

The ambiance of exposed brick walls and dim lighting set the stage for writers to express themselves in a dramatic manner while reading their poetry aloud on a stage dressed with the essence of Halloween. Although a competition, no competitive vibe was truly felt. The gathering of fellow lovers of poetry set the tone.

The evening began with the host, Christopher Mercier, reading short stories written by the members of Sigma Tau Delta. Non-present writers were given the challenge of writing a 20-word or less Halloween-themed story.

Mercier then engaged the audience in a game of ‘Mad Libs’ where all members were free to shout out any word they deemed appropriate when he requested verbs, adjectives and nouns.

The chosen words were noted by his sidekick, who was dressed in character as Morticia Addams, in which he would then fit into a pre-written story.

The third place winner was an anonymous writer, the second place winner was Andrew Helland and the writer who came in first place was Russell Schaefer.

Two writers won a VLP belt that resembled a WWE championship belt.

Laurie Nordahl, one of the writers who won, said she likes poetry because it can inspire strong emotions.

“I have been writing forever,” Nordahl said. “I was inspired by Shakespeare I think, I just love words. They are so powerful because they can inspire such strong feelings, as well as change. With slam, you cannot do anything wrong — so I encourage anyone to come forth and share what they have.”

Marcella Remund, the faculty advisor for the VLP, said the group hopes to host future events at the Varsity Pub.

“The VLP is the university’s only literary and creative writing organization made up of all different majors,” Remund said. “The VLP was started in the 1970s and produces the only student-produced literary magazine, with 30 active members. This is our first time at the Varsity Pub, and we are hoping to keep it here. It is very Beatnik-like.”

The VLP hosts a number of literary events throughout the school year, which sometimes include slam poetry readings in which they welcome guest writers.

Mercier, a member of Sigma Tau Delta who also teaches business writing at USD, said membership in the group is dependent on a student’s grades.

“Sigma Tau Delta is an English honors society, almost an honors fraternity or ‘club’ which is based on grades. We put on events, particularly literary events,” he said.

The beauty of slam poetry lies in the fact that not only does the writer exercise spoken word, but they also engage with their audience by creating a certain vibe by acting out their feelings in a dramatic manner. Slam poetry is delivered very quickly and is extremely animated, which adds to the poet’s exaggerated creativity.

“It is almost ironic” said Todd Gilmer, one of the audience members who was initially asked to judge the event. “The people above were watching football, while we were watching madness. This was my first time at any poetry event and it was very interesting, especially how they engage the audience with the show.”

The VLP is hosting a short story writing contest this Saturday in the McKusick Technology Center from noon to 3 p.m.

“Contestants come, are given a prompt and then have three hours to write their story,” Remund said.