Victoria Kupu, a Mills College junior from San Francisco earning a double major in English Literature and PLEA with an emphasis in economics took home the first place prize at the first Mills College Poetry Slam held on Nov. 21.
Initially there was a three-way tie between Gabriella Michel, Venus Jones, and Kupu. Kupu broke the tie with her piece “Roots” when audience members voted by putting up numbers with their hands to rate the contestant’s poetry.
Amanda Meth, president of the Poetry Slam Club, said she was blown away by Kupu’s performance at the Poetry Slam. She noted that Kupu first seemed very reserved, and when her brilliance came out at the event it was refreshing.
“The first time I saw Kupu perform at the Poetry Slam [club] it proved that sometimes people need an outlet to perform and show their brilliance,” Meth said. “Her poetry was brilliant. She is amazing. It was descriptive, deep, and devastatingly beautiful.”
Junior English major Lauren Thiemann attended the event and said she was amazed by the impact that Kupu’s spoken word had on the audience.
“Victoria did a really good job making everybody want to listen to her,” Thiemann said. “She made such a big impact at the poetry slam.”
Kupu said she wrote poetry when she was younger, becoming involved in spoken word in her sophomore year of high school.
“Spoken word is different than poetry because poetry is more of a formal writing, and spoken word must be spoken,” Kupu said. “It’s hard to read spoken word. It’s better heard. That’s my own personal definition.” Kupu.
Kupu said she is influenced by Oveous Maximus, a spoken word artist from New York who has won the Apollo, a nationwide talent show based in New York so many times that he was asked to stop competing.
Kupu also said that she began writing poetry because of her grandfather.
“My grandfather wrote poetry and I was inspired by his talent,” she said. “He was the main reason I started writing.”
In fifth grade Kupu wrote a poem about herself that won her a poetry competition and was published. Kupu’s winning poem was an “I am” poem exploring her cultural background and what represented it, such as traditional Polynesian clothing.
“Poetry was helping me with struggling with the complexity of social justice,” Kupu said. “I used it as a tool [when] I was doing community work.”
Since coming to Mills Kupu has been involved in poetry competitions such as the Oakland’s Youth Poet Laureate competition. Last year she was the second runner up and this year she was one of the judges. The Youth Poet Laureate represents their city and is determined by vote.
At the Mills College Poetry Slam, Kupu performed two poems. One was an untitled poem about unspoken heroes and those who have different abilities that Kupu said is her favorite of her poems. The second poem she read was her winning piece “Roots.”
“‘Roots’ is about my general experience being a first-generation American,” Kupu said. “My parents are from the Polynesian Islands. It’s also about my intensity, staying connected to my ancestral culture and how I assimilated to the American culture.”
Kupu said that after she graduates, she does not plan to pursue poetry as a career, but does plan to continue writing and performing.
“I want to use poetry as a tool to speak to many communities,” Kupu said. “I plan to continue writing it for the rest of my life.”
The Poetry Slam is a new event put on by the Poetry Slam Club, which was created by Meth this year. Meth said she wanted to highlight the poetry scene at Mills.
“I didn’t think that there were enough poetry-centered events on campus so I took advantage of how easy it is to start a club on campus,” Meth said. ” I also wanted to find the poetry community at Mills. I knew there were a lot of poets on campus and I was looking for my people.”
Meth is very excited about what the new Poetry Slam Club will bring to the Mills community.
“The Poetry Slam Club aims to bring a sense of vibrancy to the Mills community and highlight the talent that exists on campus,” Meth said. “It brings the poets out of the poems.”
The club meets twice a month in the Bender Room in Carnegie Hall.