An evening of spoken word poetry took place at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro on Friday night. The event featured Ashley Lumpkin and Ayanna Albertson who are on the way to the 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam and made a pit stop at Scuppernong Books.
While the energy in the room was lighthearted and fun, a majority of the poems spoken exemplified deeper and darker issues. From racism to domestic violence, these poems covered all aspects of a person and, more specifically, a woman’s struggle.
This event was originally supposed to feature three poets, but ended up only featuring two. The two poets more than made up for the extra space. Each one took turns performing and continued to encourage each other and the audience throughout the night. Both the women had performed together before and were selected to represent North Carolina in the 2018 Women of the World Poetry Slam taking place in Texas. They both went last year and placed within the top 20. This year, they hope to get North Carolina on the finalist’s stage.
The poems, spoken by two women of color, explained the pain associated with racism and the power of the Civil Rights Movement. However, within the messages of struggle and pain, there were still messages of hope. Ashley Lumpkin, a Georgia native who considers herself a teacher, poet and changer of fates, performed a poem relating the human experience to the sun setting saying “a bevy of stars and silent hope and beautiful still in darkness.” This poem exemplified that although the sun goes down and it is dark, we always have hope in the next sunrise. Her poems were upfront about issues that women face, but also hypocritical ways women treat each other. Her insightfulness and boldness created a very intriguing performance.
Ayanna Albertson followed Ashley Lumpkin. She shed her own light on racism and personal experiences. Albertson is fairly new to the poetry slam community, having started reading her poems out loud only a year ago. However, she is no stranger to the art form. The first time she performed at a poetry slam she won first place and was sent to the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Her anxieties about performing are still prominent but she meets it with grace and confidence and shows her heart to the audience in a humble vulnerability.
One particularly strong piece explained how she saved her ex-boyfriend from suicide. This poem tackled the concept that poets use their pain to make better poetry, when in reality they should be sorting through their pain and trying to get better. Albertson explained her own struggle with the pressure to make good poetry at the expense of her own mental health. She also challenged the notion of “good poetry,” by forcing the audience to question how something can be good when it ruins your soul.
The poems were as much about being broken as they were about being healed. These issues of feminism and racism will hardly be solved tomorrow, but the healing and therapy that comes with the speaking of poetry is always available for catharsis.
Ashley Lumpkin has a full-length book of poetry titled “#AshleyLumpkin,” which is available at Scuppernong Books and online at Amazon. She also has a website, http://www.lumplestiltzken.com, that features some of her poetry and events at which she is performing. Ayanna Albertson does not have either as of right now.
Scuppernong Books provides multiple novel and poetry readings throughout the year, including works from the MFA Creative Writing students at UNCG. The full calendar can be found on their website.