Spoken word is the name of the game, and the Slam Poetry Workshop teaches students how to play. It is every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Joseph Fielding Smith Building 322.“You’ve seen it on YouTube, you’ve seen it on Facebook and now see it at school,” according to the BYU-Idaho website calendar. “Spoken Word (slam poetry) workshop. Come learn how to: perform, write and hear some awesome poetry.”
Joseph Quiner, a junior studying English, is a manager for the workshop and said that they come up with a new prompt every week and write poetry in relation to that topic for the next Wednesday.
Quiner said that each week students share a poem they have written, and if they do not have anything prepared, they listen and observe.
“What’s amazing is that with one prompt, we all go in way different places,” Quiner said.
Quiner said the Slam Poetry Workshop on BYU-I’s campus is the first one to appear on any BYU campus even then it has only been here for a few weeks.
“As soon as you write a poem, you’re a poet,” Quiner said. “Most people don’t consider you a musician until you’re accomplished or you have a certain skill level, and a lot of people say it’s a hobby. Poetry is never a hobby. You’re a poet as soon as you start writing poetry.”
Quiner said anyone can write poetry, it does not take a certain skillset, and the group claps after every poem read.
Thomas Whipple, a freshman majoring in general studies and a regular attendee of the workshop, said he got into spoken word about three months ago when he was looking for something to do between rugby, school and work.
Whipple said that what started off as a pass time turned into a passion — which he said is hard to find.
“When I was writing something I could tell a lot about who I was, because I could finally see it on paper,” Whipple said. “It helped me see the world in a different way — a self-evaluation through the poems.”
Whipple said he found joy in something new, and it all started with writing in a sketch pad.
“I love expressing myself and being able to connect with others, and for them to connect with me,” Whipple said.
Quiner said that he considers the workshop to be a safe place where anyone can comfortably share something personal and be a poet.
“I didn’t feel like anyone was going to judge me,” Quiner said. “I could have cried probably and I wouldn’t have been embarrassed. I know we’re not counselors or anything, but it’s safe.”
Quiner said that it is hard for a lot of people to talk about mental illness or eating disorders, but spoken word gives everyone a new way to talk about it.
“I really like some of the other workshops,” Quiner said. “Learning acoustic guitar would be really cool, but in this workshop I get a connection with everyone, and I feel like they know things about me that are really personal, and I know things about them. It makes me like this school a lot more, because I know there’s a lot of people here just like me.”
Quiner said though there are not any official slam poetry competitions on campus, there are opportunities to compete in Idaho Falls twice a year.
Quiner said that he only really competes in his homestate of Oregon, performing mostly in a town called Eugene.
When Quiner was just starting off with slam poetry, he said he was scared because most spoken word is explicit, and his work was obviously different.
“Mormon community and spoken word have never really connected,” Quiner said.
Quiner said he believes that BYU-I is starting to close that gap by starting the Slam Poetry Workshop.
“This workshop gives BYU-Idaho a new lens,” Quiner said. “This is the first time any church school has ever done something like this, so I just think it’s a new way for us to try. I think it’s super powerful. I think members of the Church would be so talented at this.”