Poetry contest to honor students, late professor

Mallory Kutnick, Campus Reporter


Nine select students will compete for money in the fifth annual Graham Slam! poetry match 4 p.m. Friday in the Tarble Arts Center atrium.

Dana Ringuette, the English department chair, said all nine students will win cash prizes depending on how they place, with the winner taking home $3,360 and the ninth-place poet receiving $13.13.

“The prizes are based on an ancient formula,” Ringuette said. The formula involves cutting each amount by half, with the second-place prize being $1,680 and the eighth-place prize being $26.25.

Four faculty members of the English department selected nine finalists from a series of submissions.

Ringuette said different poetry slams have different rules.

“They come in all varieties,” he said.

In the Graham Slam!, each participant will read one of their own poems, and the four-person panel of judges will score them on their work.

“It’s poetry in performance,” Ringuette said. “It really is a lot of fun.”

The reception will also include “finger food, punch and beverages,” Ringuette said.

The submissions are not limited to students from the English department and include poets studying economics and mathematics, Ringuette said. Six of the nine finalists are English students, while the other three come from the psychology and communication studies departments.

Ringuette said the slam “doesn’t take long.” It will be followed by a reception, featuring a reading by guest poet Chris Desjardins.

Ringuette said Desjardins, founder of the Los Angeles-based punk rock band The Flesh Eaters, was a major influence on Graham Lewis, the competition’s namesake.

Lewis was a poet and English professor who taught at Eastern from 1993 until he died in his sleep in 2008.

Ringuette said the 46-year-old seemed healthy the last time he saw him.

Ringuette said he does not know what caused Lewis’ death.

“He was at home, and he passed peacefully,” Ringuette said. “He was still very much a young man. It was so sudden.”

Lewis earned his bachelor’s degree in English at Eastern in 1985. He served as the “high minister of propaganda” – campaign manager – for Joe Butler as Butler ran for “top dude” – student body president – in 1984. Butler, a “Silly Party” politician, spent $7 on his campaign and won.

Following Butler’s victory and inauguration as “top dude,” Lewis went from “high minister of propaganda” to “Minister of Truth.”


Mallory Kutnick can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].