Interview: Victoria Richardson
This week, justArts spoke with Victoria Richardson ’20, the winner of the Slam that took place at Chum’s this past Saturday.
justArts: Why do you slam? Is the poetry you slam separate from the poetry you just mean to read?
Victoria Richardson: I’m a poet and stepper, so I guess you could say I’m a performer at heart. I started writing poetry and slam as an outlet in, like, fifth grade. I didn’t realize it was poetry because I always had this idea that poetry has to rhyme. Then I really started paying attention to it in eighth grade. I guess it’s just always been an outlet for me to get things off of my chest. My poems are usually free-writes that turn into poetry. I never really write with the intention of, Hey, I’m going to write a masterpiece. It’s more like, This is just on my chest; hey, let me write it. I never think about my writing as performance — I never write it and think, Hey I’m going to write this. It just kind of happens.
JA: Do you want to elaborate on why you choose to write and what you write about?
VR: A lot of what I write has to do with my own personal experiences or things I witness or things that make me angry. Like I tell people a lot, I don’t write pretty poetry. I don’t write about the wonderful parts of falling in love — I write about the heartbreak. A lot of my stuff is angry, very political I guess you could say. Because those are thing that affect me the most — like race, gender and sexuality. I feel like a lot of it is what I experience and what I witness and what makes me angry.
JA: What is the hardest part about slamming for you?
VR: The hardest part is having people put a number to what you write. I never think about it in terms of how deep my metaphors may be or how good the performance is. I think of it as raw things that are on my mind, raw experiences. So when people put a number on it — and usually slams don’t tell you what the number is — to hear when people put a number on it, and you feel like you wrote a 10 and they give you a 7 on it, you’re like, Wow. The number is hard — it’s like putting a number on an experience.
JA: What happens now that you’ve won?
VR: So, we are going to a national slam in Chicago. So, there are multiple teams competing. I’m not sure how this one specifically is going, but usually there are multiple teams, and they all slam, and you get judged. It’s like the slam here — the only thing that is different is that you work with a team. With slam teams, it’s different; you come together to write the poem. You perform together and get judged as a group.
JA: Any last things you want to add?
VR: Well, first of all, I wasn’t even going to go to the slam. My friend, Bethel, who was the first sacrificial poet, dragged me out of my room and was, like, You’re going to go out and do this. At first, I thought it was just an open mic and that I’d say something old and carry on with my life. I didn’t know there were judges until Jamele [Adams] said so. I’m happy [Bethel] did drag me out. I haven’t been writing lately, and just going out and getting all the positive feedback makes me want to go back and write again — I don’t want to sit on my talent. I’m inspired to go back.