R-VOICES: Roc Bottom Slam at St. John Fisher
Bouncin’ Off the Walls
by David Delaney
In a packed student lounge on the campus of St. John Fisher, Lu Highsmith and the Roc Bottom Slam Team delivered on a promise to “build community through poetry.” Those words are the heart of Just Poets’ mission and its R-Voices community outreach program. Last night was yet another event that fulfilled that ideal.
Mark, one of nearly 100 in the crowd, noted the make-up of the audience: “You had rich people, poor people, older, younger, academia and street wise— people of all colors, all there— all giving sense of community; something we desperately need, each supporting the other.”
Mark was referencing the total evening where Fisher students, Just Poets members, and people from the community took part in an open mic after a tremendous performance by slam poets: Chi, DieVerse, K-t, Ladii, Lyric, Marvelous Marvin, Anderson, Shaq, and Andrea Daszkiewicz.
Several St. John Fisher seniors responded to the Roc Bottom performance:
- “I was like tearing up, oh my God,” said one student of Roc Bottom member Andrea.
- “Amazing,” said another student. “I was quite surprised by how much I liked it, because I never really listened to poetry before.”
- Another senior said, “I liked the tone, the movement, it was so lively.”
The Roc Bottom poets never missed a beat. This was performance art at its peak. Right from jump street, slam contest veteran Anderson brought Broadway-level performance to the stage in his poem “Marriage,” so gripping in gesture and beat, even the ping pong balls in the rec room next door stopped to listen. And that was just the beginning. Each Roc poet reached inside and grabbed that gutsy place where pain and pleasure snap like stripped wires.
St. John Fisher professor M.J. Iuppa organized and emceed the evening, and basked in the night’s success: “I love it. I love the diversity of it,” she said.
Just Poets member Larry Berger did his improv poetry, and JP’s Roy Hartwell Bent recited a couple of poignant pieces. Surrounding them were Fisher students: Miss Kat, Miss Kat-2, Jacob, and Dan. All read poems. Student Peggy H. read a poem about the horror of cancer with such passion and rage that even cancer got cancer. A pair of white rappers (I. O. N. and Chris) brought sway to the seats. And putting a cap on the night was Cel and his song, soon-to-be-a-hit-near-you, “Bouncin’ Off the Walls”, that wrapped up an energetic and meaningful evening.
Just Poets’ R-Voices series is made possible with support from a New York State Council of the Arts Decentralization Grant awarded by the Genesee Valley Arts Council. A sincere thanks to our host St. John Fisher. And thank you Roc Bottom for packing and rocking the house with talent and heart.