The UpRise Poetry Collective is hosting its final slam this Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union Play Circle. The final bout will reveal the 2020 UpRise Team headed to College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) for the third year in a row. The last standing poets are made up of mostly first-year UW students hoping to take their skills all the way to Virginia Commonwealth University in April, where hundreds of students from across the country will travel to compete.
The eight contestants left on the roster after the two qualifying slams earlier this fall include Nile Lansana, Ella Dietz, Jackson Neal, Sydney Bobb, Alpha Stokes, Isha Camara and Penda Smith.
Last year, the UpRise Poetry Collective snagged 6th place in the world at the annual slam. UW junior and UpRise President Isha Camara won the ‘Best Poet,” while a number of other team members were considered for best poem.
“There are not a lot of orgs on campus that can say that. There are not a lot orgs in the world that can say that,” said UW junior Nile Lansana who will be competing for a spot on the 2020 UpRise team.
UpRise was established as UW-Madison’s official Slam Poetry team in 2018. UpRise was found by First Wave Scholars and 10th cohort sisters Penda Smith and Mackenzie Berry. UpRise is now a registered student organization that hosts slams, writing workshops and sends students to CUPSI each year.
“There’s not anything like UpRise on campus in terms of the people, in terms of the work that we do, in terms of the way we build people’s craft,” said Lansana who also serves as UpRise Vice President.
A seasoned poet in the game, Lansana has slammed at notable competitions including Louder Than A Bomb (Chicago) and Brave New Voices International Slam as a member of Chicago’s Rebirth Poetry Ensemble. After competing with UpRise for the first time in 2018, he penned a poem titled “TV Talk” about his younger brother who’s on the spectrum and, like most Black boys, at risk of being dangerously misunderstood by the police.
After honing his craft with UpRise, “TV Talk,” eventually pushed Lansana to win his first ever individual slam at the 2018 Gwendolyn Brooks Open Mic Slam.
Sophomore Sydney Bobb is also bringing some heat to the final UpRise slam on Friday. Hailing from Boston, Bobb is a member of the 12th cohort of First Wave. She has competed in Louder Than a Bomb (Massachusetts) and Braves New Voices 2018.
Bobb competed in CUPSI last spring, earning 10th place with Northeastern University’s Interrobang Poets. Now, she will be competing for a place on UW’s UpRise team.
“This Friday my goal is to have fun and express myself to a new audience. It would be a privilege to get to collaborate with other poets at UW Madison,” Bobb said. “My objective is always to learn and absorb the work of others.”
Bobb will be slamming her very first minute-long poem this week.
“Its important to come out on Friday,” said UpRise President Isha Camara “Just seeing the work that UW Madison students are putting into creating art, creating space where people can share their work on platforms and curate art through communities,” she said.
“It’s about to be a fire show!”