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Club Feature: UpRise Poetry Collective

Slam poetry is a form of performance poetry where people come together to present their work in a competitive environment. The performer has three minutes to spit their poem with a ten-second grace period. Then, five judges score the poem on a 0-10 scale immediately after. 

UpRise Poetry Collective was founded in 2018 by Penda Smith and Mackenzie Berry. While talking to the current president of the club, Isha Camara, she described the mission of the club as, “to seek and foster space to develop craft and community building and understanding all the myriad forms of poetry.” 

In March of 2019 at the University of Houston, UpRise Poetry Collective competed in the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, also known as CUPSI. The University of Wisconsin-Madison team got 6th overall in the world, the best writing by a team award — and Isha Camara won best poet overall. Poems from Nile Lanana, Isha Camara and Duncan Slagle all got nominated for best poems. Every year, UpRise brings five UW-Madison students to the competition to perform. They will be competing at Virginia Commonwealth University this spring. 

UpRise is a club that focuses on different identities from across the country and welcomes them all. While there are requirements to go to CUPSI, UpRise aims to create an environment that is welcoming to all writers to come to improve their skills. Not only do they do slam poetry, but they organize poetry workshops, performance workshops, writing workshops and collaborations with other teams on campus. 

This club is not just a typical club on campus. Nile Lansana spoke to me about how slam poetry is so much more than just poetry. He reflected on his favorite poem that he wrote about his brother who is on the autism spectrum, Ari. He shared how performing that poem makes him feel “joy and fear at the same time.” 

Along with solo slamming, UpRise also produces group poems. These poems are done with two to four people who collectively come together to write and perform a work. Lansana reflected on how doing these poems are some of his favorite memories of being a part of the club. 

“Individual poems, you are the only person writing them. But with group poems, you are writing them with one to two other people, so it is much more of a collaboration,” Lansana said. 

He expressed his pride about their CUPSI team being an all-black team on a predominantly white campus. While they are having great successes internationally, they are always focusing on improving. 

Just a few of the future goals of UpRise are to branch out into the community, to continue making their organization a space for all and to put forth high quality programming that gets people to support poetry. 


Check out their club Instagram @uprisepoetrycollective. 

If you’re interested in joining this great club on campus, email uprisepoetrycollective@gmail.com

The members featured in this article’s personal Instagrams: @nileflow6 and @ishathepoet / @icee.drawings 


And the best part, watch the featured slammers' past performances! 

Isha Camara performing “Black Muslim Problems”: Watch

Nile Lansana performing “Swirve”: https://soundcloud.com/user-615684681/swirve-nile-lansana

Emily is a senior at the University of Wisconsin - Madison studying Journalism with an emphasis in strategic communications. In her spare time, she loves taking photos, listening to podcasts, and going to art museums around campus. Find her on Instagram instagram.com/emily.ravet!
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