On Monday, April 27, Columbia University’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month will be hosting FOLKSLAM, a showcase of Asian-American slam poetry.
The event will take place in 304 Barnard Hall from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. and features Paul Tran, Jess X. Chen, Cathy Linh Che, Kit Yan, and Ocean Vuong. Student openers include Cathy Guo, Fatima Koli, and Nihal Shetty.
The event seeks to explore Asian-American identity through an ardent, creative lens.
“FOLKSLAM was definitely inspired by the energy and passion of the poets around campus,” event chair Paulina Mangubat, BC '17, said. “When the APAHM event chairs were first pitching event ideas all the way back in October, I wanted to find a way to combine energetic, passionate storytelling with discussions about Asian-American identity.”
In light of many Asian subcultures’ emphasis on oral tradition, slam poetry, according to event organizers, is an especially fitting medium to explore their identity.
“What has got us here? How does slam poetry carry on the mantle of folklore, or stories of the people passed down orally? That’s what FOLKSLAM seeks to explore through eight highly varied performances by artists of immensely diverse backgrounds,” event chair Sanchit Jain, CC '18, said. “Slam poetry is unarguably the oral tradition of our college-going generation.”
Participants find it a relief to have a space for unmitigated identity exploration.
"As an Asian-American artist, I've found that it's hard to find places to reflect on culture in my work that I don't keep to myself,” APAHM event chair and student opener Nihal Shetty, CC '18, said. “People don't want to hear about brown boy problems, or brown boy thrills, or just brown boy-ness.”
“In that sense, I'm excited for FOLKSLAM because I want to be able to explore my work in a context that doesn't try and outline it in grids—I don't want to play out my culture or avoid it, I want to sculpt it,” Shetty said.