On Friday, Sept. 23, our very own Hub was transformed into an outlet for creativity, spoken word and self-expression. The honors program hosted an open mic slam poetry event in which students were invited to share and appreciate creative writing and music. Poetry fans, Creative Dining staff and unwitting dinner-goers, who were just there for cheese curds, witnessed performances from Northwestern students of all different backgrounds and interests. Many of the performers had never attended nor presented slam poetry prior to this event, but their talent and willingness to be vulnerable made up for any lack of professional experience. Acts ranged from Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” Rumi’s “The Guest House” to Lemonade Mouth’s “She’s So Gone,” as well as a large amount of original material. Naomi Lief, Clara Pahl, Collin Verschoor and Alec Schultz opted for personal poetry and prose, while Nora Olson, Garrett Hurt and Sawyer Hildrith chose selections from preexisting music artists. In essence, for both the performer and audience, there was something for everyone.
During the hour-long event, each student had the opportunity to share what has been on their minds and in their journals in a casual but intentional environment. Audience member and junior psychology/genetics major Anneka Sterk described it as “a very soothing atmosphere. A lot of art was being shared in a safe space.” Which, for Pahl, organizer and founder of this event, was the goal. Pahl recited some of the poetry she had written over the summer during her time abroad in Oxford, speaking of her childhood experiences and encounters with OCD. To her, poetry “is the art of ambiguity and subtlety; beauty is found between the two.” Although everyone has their own definition and interpretation of creative writing, the event itself was organized in a way that both casual and dedicated fans could appreciate it.
Campus has seen a surge of events relating to music, art and language this year, with slam poetry nights, art exhibits and the resurrection of NCDC this spring. This trend is in direct contrast with the fact that the humanities are disappearing from college campuses. In fact, this is the eighth consecutive year that the amount of college graduates in the humanities dropped, since more young adults are choosing more career-driven fields such as business and health professions. According to Pahl this “is ironic, considering the many movements that aim to advocate for inclusion, diversity and mental health; all of these societal potholes can be pushed towards the light using art and words.” In other words, areas of study such as English, history and philosophy provide opportunities for societal growth and reform, but many students shy away from them due to the uncertainty of the career benefits.
Even though students may not choose to study the fine arts and humanities, they are still an essential service and emotional outlet for many students on campus, which is why Pahl worked to create a no-pressure performance space that encouraged creative expression, not perfection.
For those looking to get involved, Pahl plans on hosting more opportunities such as “casual poetry symposiums,” where students can gather and share their stories and poems without the pressure of performing or receiving a bad grade. And for those who are having bad flashbacks to middle school poetry units, be assured that there is a place for everyone at events such as these, and that no formal training is required to appreciate and participate in art. Creative writing is both an outlet for personal expression and opportunity for self-reflection and growth. In Pahl’s words, “poetry is not the endgame to helping others, but it is an effective beginning,” and we hope that this event is just the beginning of NW’s commitment to the humanities, art and creative outlets.