The Pacific Index

Poetry Slam provides safe space, free speech

Max Kirkendall

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What if there was a place that people of all gender identities could go and hang out and feel safe? For senior Aryn Jones that place just happens to exist. Jones’ project fell under the category of Queering Common Consciousness. More specifically, the ritual effects of Portland poetry slam.

Poetry slam was created in the 1980s for a change in the monotonous original poetry style. Poetry slam was created to give the stage back to the people, rather than the judges who would judge common poetry.

Jones’ project focused specifically on the Portland poetry slam and its transformative effects on the lives of transgender and non-binary participants. Jones interviewed seven Portland poetry

slam participants and also observed 10 participants that varied in gender identity.

“The transgender and non- binary individuals I talked to were moved by the acceptance and validation they received from their participation in slam,” said Jones. “For me, slam was the first and only place I feel 100 percent accepted in Portland.” The project also looked at the Portland poetry slam as a safe space based on the ethic of consent. The Portland poetry slam creates a queer-friendly space with validation and support. It does so by restating consent before every event.

“What makes the poetry slam so great is that it gives people that are very different in a variety of ways a chance to connect through one thing,” Jones said. “It’s a great feeling to get up on stage and see people connect with what you are saying.”

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Poetry Slam provides safe space, free speech