NEW YORK, NY—Rutgers University’s spoken word poetry group, Verbal Mayhem, was invited to the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) at Barnard College in New York earlier this month

Shireen Hamza, Alyea Pierce, Dennis Sholler, and Kate Thomas represented Rutgers-New Brunswick at the national competition.

There was a total of 59 teams invited to CUPSI, and each team performed at least twice in the preliminary bouts.

“CUPSI is not only a great platform to develop new poets but also a major, national event at which experienced poets and collegiate teams can showcase their performance poetry,” says Sholler.

Pierce, this year’s Team Captain for Rutgers, explained that “this was the largest CUPSI ever in the 13 years.”

“To have the opportunity and the ability to attend a venue where people who love poetry just as much as you, is beautiful in itself.  Many times poets feel alone, but when you are surrounded by so much positive and loving energy, the idea of competition dissipates.”

Video of the Rutgers Verbal Mayhem performances are available at the following links: America (group piece), Fractions (Hamza), Austin’s Obituary (Sholler), Hopeful (Hamza, Pierce), Jigsaw (Pierce), and Sponge (Sholler, Thomas).

“It was amazing to experience the diversity and depth of the poetry world through college students’ eyes at CUPSI,” says Thomas.

“It was easy to see reoccurring themes of what matters to college students across the country–what they want to share with the public. Topics ranged from social and political issues, to sexuality, mental health, and personal tragedies and triumphs.

“One of the biggest struggles for me was to hear intensely emotional poems, one after another, and then stand up and perform one of my own pieces. It was both humbling and intimidating to partake in such a powerful competition.”

Sholler described the event as a “giant flea market of souls.”

He thinks the one of the biggest things New Brunswick’s Verbal Mayhem can gain from this experience is the energy: “The energy at CUPSI is unbelievable. Most of this energy is simply derived from support.”

“In few other team activities will members applaud their counterparts as if they were there own,” Sholler told

Hamza adds that the team learned more ways to “create a positive and receptive environment for performers, and how to build energy in a room.  I think we can bring that back to the weekly mayhem.”

“It’s important to publicize different events in different venues throughout the year, which will make our presence more solid.”

The Verbal Mayhem Poetry Collective meets every Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Murray Hall Room 114 on the Rutgers University campus.

Reporter at New Brunswick Today

Molly O'Brien is a law student and reporter in the city of New Brunswick.

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Molly O'Brien

Molly O'Brien is a law student and reporter in the city of New Brunswick.