Can poetry deliver change? Thirteen budding poets explored the role of poetry in bringing change when they participated at UCSI University’s recently held Poetry Slam Competition 2016.

Poetry slam is a live literary performance in a judged competition where poets take to the stage to express themselves through the recital of poems crafted on their own.

Themed “Poetry for Change”, the competition saw the talented poets highlighting pressing issues concerning women, racism, patriotism and even mental health.

Bagging the first prize for courageously performing poems based on personal experiences was Mok Jee Wen. The award was her first.

Mok's poems touched the hearts of the audience. Image by Eksentrika

Mok’s poems touched the hearts of the audience. Image by Eksentrika

“I’ve been slamming for two-years and this is the first competition I took part in. It took me two-months to practise with a lot of time and effort going into the mental preparation rather than memorising the poems,” the 26-year-old said.

Mok revealed the hardest part was maintaining a stage presence – something she always had difficulty with until this competition where she decided to let go of her fears.

“Stage presence is everything along with the strength to maintain composure as each audience member has different expectations.”

The external auditor’s poem on mental illness touched the judges and members of the audience who snapped their fingers in approval – a common practise among poetry slam-goers.

Coming in second place was UCSI’s English Language & Communication (ELC) degree student, Gwendoline Esther Hay Ai Yin who shared the first-runner up prize with returning competitor, Sarah Rani.

UCSI’s English Language & Communication (ELC) degree student, Gwendoline Esther Hay Ai Yin mimics a gunman during her poetry slam performance. Image courtesy of UCSI University

UCSI’s English Language & Communication (ELC) degree student, Gwendoline Esther Hay Ai Yin during her poetry slam performance. Image courtesy of UCSI University.

The first year ELC student said she had to obtain pointers from seasoned local poetry slammers such as Melizarani Selva and Enbah Nilah to prep herself for the competition.

“I started muttering my poems under my breath everywhere I went as the competition date drew closer. It was so funny when people caught me doing it,” the 22-year-old Malacca born related.

The award came as a shock as this was the first time she entered a competition after just beginning to perform poetry earlier this year.

Her poems tackled patriarchy head on.

Poetry has always had a certain sway over the minds and hearts of those who encounter it.

“Looking back, majority of poets wrote about things they cared most deeply about and that kind of sincerity speaks to people whether it’s coming off a page or off a stage,” Gwendoline said.

For Sarah, experiencing elimination from last year’s competition made her determined to better herself this time around.

Sarah Rani returns this year to clinch the joint second spot with UCSI’s Gwendoline Esther Hay Ai Yin. Image courtesy of UCSI University.

Sarah Rani returns this year to clinch the joint second spot with UCSI’s Gwendoline Esther Hay Ai Yin. Image courtesy of UCSI University.

“Last year’s competition was my first and I was proud for pushing through to round-two unexpectedly.

“Since then I started attending various poetry gigs and events to prepare for this day, hoping to make it to round-three,” the 30-year-old lecturer said.

The 2nd runner-up was poet Enbah Nilah, who experimented with some of her lesser comfortable poems.

Seasoned poetry slammer Enbah Nilah said the Poetry Slam Competition 2016 was a good platform for her to test some of her lesser known poems. Image courtesy of UCSI University.

Poetry slammer Enbah Nilah said the Poetry Slam Competition 2016 was a good platform to challenge herself. Image courtesy of UCSI University.

“This competition served as a great avenue for me to challenge myself and break out of my comfort zone. Every poet has three pieces that they often hold closely to their hearts and I really just wanted to try something I was not comfortable with,” the winner of the 2016 CausewayEXchange Poetry Slam said.

Meanwhile, the consolation prize went to Wan Rezal Ismail Othman. Decked in his psychedelic jacket and cap, Rezal delivered his masterpiece poem on the state of affairs in the country titled “On My Block”.

Wan Rezal reminded us of a very young but extremely reserved John Lennon. Image by Eksentrika.

Wan Rezal reminded us of a very young but extremely reserved John Lennon. Image by Eksentrika.

The UCSI Poetry Slam Competition 2016 was organised by the English Language Student Association (ELSA) in collaboration with the Faculty of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts (FOSSLA). The competition was preceded by a Poetry Slam Workshop 2016, held on the 3rd of September 2016.

The workshop was led by well-known poetry educator; Elaine Foster. Both the Workshop and Competition were organised to encourage creative cross-disciplinary communication through the spoken word. Both events are part of UCSI’s ongoing Right to Read campaign that aims to encourage the passion for reading.The Competition was judged by prominent figures in the Malaysian art scene namely, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre Executive Producer and Co-Founder Dato’ Faridah Merican, former academician at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Assoc Prof Che Fatimah Dinna, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre Artistic Director and Co-Founder Joe Hasham, Kakiseni President Low Ngai Yuen, academician at The University of Nottingham and poet Sheena Baharudin.

Also present at the Competition was Senior Prof Dato’ Dr Khalid Yusoff, the Vice-Chancellor and President of UCSI University and UCSI’s Faculty of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts Dean, Asst Prof Dr Chan Nee Nee.

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