Freshman hits ‘Graham Slam,’ takes home over 3 grand

Analicia Haynes, Online Editor

The audience roared with applause and cheers when Simone Reynolds’ name was announced as the winner of the $3,360 first prize at the Graham Slam poetry competition.

Reynolds was the youngest out of nine competitors, being just a freshman, but her age did not limit her ability to write the winning poem she called “South Side No Man.”

“To be a south side No Man,” she said when she began reading her poem, “is to be a refugee, escaping the emotions that were experienced in each hood.”

Her poem was laced with memories of her past, which revolved around growing up in the south side of Chicago, and it was an ode to her grandfather, who she referred to as “TT.”

When she first took the stage, adjusting the mic stand on her own and smiling at the audience before she began, Reynolds said she was nervous.

“I practiced five times before I got here,” she said laughing.

Reynolds said she was not sure whether she would win or not. She said there were two voices that ran through her head before she got on stage.

“There’s always this little voice…or like two sides (saying) ‘oh girl you’re going to kill this,’ or (the voice is saying) ‘humble yourself,’” Reynolds said.

However, though there were two voices that ran through her head, Reynolds said if there is one thing that she tries to do all the time it is to remain humble.

“I know I have potential and I know I am capable of doing those things, but I never want to speak things to existence,” she said.

Which is why, she said, she was shocked she won.

“I’ve been doubting myself a little bit as an artist, so things like (poetry competition) makes me feel like my work…is not in vain,” she said.

Reynolds won by one point and said people underestimate freshmen.

“I’m just like ‘no we are people too’ we all come from different walks of life so I don’t think people should just automatically assume that just because I’m a freshman that I’m premature,” she said.

Though Reynolds won the first-place prize, the other eight students who competed did not walk away empty-handed.

The prizes that followed after first place were monetary awards that ranged from $1,680 for second place to $13 and an action figure for ninth place.

However, despite money at stake, all nine Eastern students who competed were supportive of one another and cheered each other on just as the audience did.

Brandi Gard, a senior creative writing major, placed second and said performing for everyone is a hard thing to do and everyone is nervous.

“You gain a lot by being supportive of others and you gain a lot especially in writing by listening to others and experiencing how they write,” Gard said.

Jasmin Ashikyan, a senior psychology major, performed her final year in the competition and said there is not a point in tearing each other down.

“You don’t lose when you (are) all wanting each other to do well,” she said. “We’re all finalists, we all got here because we were good and so why get down on yourself? We were good enough to get in these seats, so why are we going to tear each other down at this point?”

As for Reynolds, she said she hopes that one day she can get her work published and eventually do public readings of her own.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].