Student Stories

Listen to the poem

"Listen to the poem!" 

The audience, packed into the Logan Center's cafe, shouts at the row of judges as they reveal their scores for the last poet's performance. It's a reminder that, for the members of UChicago's student-run slam poetry club, scores don't matter. 

Still, when it comes to numbers, poetry group Catcher in the Rhyme has a lot to celebrate.

In the last year, the community has swelled from a small group of dedicated poets to a community of over 100 fans. The group’s Wednesday night open mics have become a supportive stage for many students looking to showcase new music and writing before an enthusiastic audience. And, for the first time, the group fielded two teams for slam competitions in Chicago and New York City, bringing UChicago slam to a  national stage.

Catcher competed for the second time ever at Louder than a Bomb (LTAB), a Chicago-area slam poetry competition, sending a team of five to perform at the nationally-recognized competition held during the first week of March. A month later, a group of UChicago poets, joined by the rest of the team in a show of solidarity, competed at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) in New York City.

For Vincente Perez, a first-year in the College, the promise of a strong slam community helped draw him to UChicago.

“Starting out, there weren’t a lot of places [to perform] in Kansas City,” Perez, who began performing slam poetry in high school, said. “I read an article [in the Maroon] and saw that the team had taken first in Louder than a Bomb, which is a really huge deal. I was really, really excited to come and be a part of the organization.”

Just a year later, Perez took to the stage and represented UChicago at LTAB, alongside four other student poets. 

But despite the recent success and the growing fan base, the poets in Catcher in the Rhyme downplay the competitive aspect of the club. For Nina Coomes, a second-year and founder of Catcher in the Rhyme, performing in the national spotlight isn’t the focus of their work.

“Slam at UChicago for me is primarily a community,” she said; the response to this new community on campus has been overwhelmingly positive.

Second-year Rachel Whaley Catcher profiled Catcher in the Rhyme community in her short documentary

Listen to a reading by second-year poet Nina Coomes. “Letter to my Unborn Daughter” was performed at LTAB.