As an undergraduate some twenty years ago, I chose English as my major because I liked to read and write. After a few years I left with a B. A. in English and no real clear direction of exactly what I wanted to do with it. I still liked to write, so I plugged away at my own very bad version of the “Great American Novel,” the occasional short story, and even itinerant journalism. Nothing seemed to be quite the real fit. Meanwhile, I also obtained a teaching license and tried my hand at teaching middle school and high school. I still loved English and wrote, but gave up ambitions of making it as a writer. Instead, I became an educator and found myself tutoring and finally teaching English at the community college level.
I like teaching, but I was also pursuing a slightly different tact with my writing. In 1999, I became involved in a movement called the Poetry Slam. Started in Chicago, the Poetry Slam is a literary competition that engages audiences and poets in a randomly judged event. From its beginnings in the ‘80s in Chicago, it has spread to well over 500 slams internationally, with at least 4 different national competitions. As I got involved, first as a competing poet, then as an organizer of events, I was intrigued by slam’s authenticity, explosive growth, and its ability to bring, for what many people is a solo endeavor, writers together. Now for someone whose background is in English Literature, the poetry that is produced by Slam Poets is rarely innovative or groundbreaking. Instead, slam’s emphasis on delivery has made modern poetry accessible, brought larger and more diverse audiences back into coffee shops and bars to listen to poetry. With the rise of the internet and the personal computer, increasingly poets are no longer reliant on publishing as the way to further their reputations and increase their rewards.
My interest in choosing the Cultural Studies program stems from my experiences in coffee shops and bars. Specifically, I’m intrigued by what place a poetry reading has in popular culture and how art is constructed, consumed, and understood. Generally, I’m interested in arts place in culture and how it shapes, transforms, and engages the larger culture/society it is a product of.