Wellesley Out Loud Places Fourth in National Slam Poetry Competition

The Wellesley Out Loud team poses on a stairwell.
Photo provided by Wellesley Out Loud
April 30, 2018

Earlier this month, Wellesley Out Loud, Wellesley’s slam poetry team, competed at the international College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) in Philadelphia, an annual tournament held by the Association of College Unions International. The team made it to the finals, finishing fourth out of 66 teams, and now ranks internationally as one of the best teams in collegiate poetry.

Wellesley Out Loud, founded just a year ago, didn’t reach the semifinals in last year’s tournament. This time, the team made it through the preliminary and semifinal rounds with the highest scores of all the teams competing, winning every single round on the way to finals. This is only the second time in CUPSI history that a team from a women’s college has reached the final round.  

The team of five poets, coached by professional slam poet Porsha Olayiwola and Sam Chin ’17, a founding member of the CUPSI team, spent seven months preparing for the competition. Their poems cover a variety of topics including self-love, expressing one's individuality, sharing one's story through art, and siblinghood. Through crafting performances and competition, the team has become a family, team member Bella O’Connor ’21 told the Wellesley News.

“Joining the CUPSI team was really transformative experience for me,” O’Connor said. “I never grew up with siblings or anything, so I was never able to bond with people or have this kind of unconditional, sibling-type love that I’ve had on this team…There’s been a lot of healing involved, through writing. And I feel like I got so much help that I didn’t realize that I needed.”

Heather Corbally Bryant, a poet and a visiting lecturer in the writing program at Wellesley, has invited members of the slam poetry team to perform for her first-year writing classes. “We were all amazed by the force and clarity of both their voices and what they had to say,” she said. “When they left the room, we were all quiet for a minute as we absorbed the beauty of what had just happened.”  

Bryant believes slam poets give college students a way to let others “see by example how to be bold, how to be strong, and how to be heard.” She hopes they will inspire other students to “learn how to give voice to the unspoken undercurrents running deep in their own lives.”

Bryant also noted the importance of a women’s college team excelling nationally. “In this era where more and more women are becoming vocal about their own journeys, struggles, triumphs, sorrows, and violations, it is important that the national college community recognize the distinct opportunity and presence that women’s colleges offer,” she said.

April is National Poetry Month.

With reporting from Christine Roberts ’19.

Photo: The Wellesley Out Loud Team: Catrina Chen ’21, Porsha Olayiwola (coach), Mila Cuda ’21, Vei Vei Thomas ’20, Bella O'Connor ’21, Sam Chin ’17, Sarah Nwafor ’20, Juliette Sander ’19 (team manager)