Students embrace their identity with slam poetry

Diversity and LGBTQ+ peer counselors invited students to share original poetry


Emma Malinak

Clara Albacete, ‘23, welcomes students to the slam poetry event.

Emma Malinak, A&L Editor

Washington and Lee students were moved to tears on Nov. 4 as poets shared personal stories of exploring their identity, building confidence and finding acceptance. 

“It takes a strong person to read poems in front of people,” audience member Claire Grant, ‘23, said. “Having the vulnerability to share something so personal is very touching. It made me cry.”

The slam poetry night was held in Northen Auditorium and planned by the diversity and LGBTQ+ peer counselors (PCs). 

Head Diversity PC Clara Albacete, ‘23, and Head LGBTQ+ PC Cat Hudson, ‘24, planned and moderated the event. They started the night by ensuring that everyone in the audience felt welcome to step up to the stage.

“It’s a safe space,” Hudson said. “We’re all friendly here.”

Albacete and Hudson invited students to perform original poetry that related to the theme of identity, regardless of previous experience with writing or reciting poems. 

“It’s an awesome opportunity for people to share some of their deep thoughts or their experiences that they’ve had on campus, the good and the bad,” Hudson said.

The performers shared work in a variety of poetic forms and styles. The topics of the poems included observations of connections to the past, accounts of struggles with anxiety and reflections on religion. Many poets addressed the theme of identity by discussing how they have come to understand and embrace their gender and sexuality to be more confident versions of themselves.

“I’m finding that I like the authentic me around,” one student said in their poem. 

Due to the sensitive nature of the poems and widespread requests for confidentiality, the performers will remain anonymous. 

One poet discussed their journey with mental health and reflected on how much they have grown in recent years.

“My bad days are better than they’ve ever been,” they said. 

Other poets shared stories of love, including love of family and romantic love. One performer shared their love of the little joys in life, such as the peace of sitting on the colonnade on a fall morning. 

For many performers, the event provided an opportunity to explore complex emotions. 

“This is an idea that’s been floating in my head for months,” another poet said. “I’ve finally put it into words.”

The poetry night marked milestones for the peer counseling programs. The diversity peer counseling program, which was established five years ago, is the strongest it has ever been with a total of 13 diversity PCs. 

This is also the first year that LGBTQ+ counseling is being integrated into the peer counseling system. 

Albacete said she is grateful that students have access to PCs who have been trained to talk about diversity-related issues and who can relate to the perspective of being a member of the black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community on campus. 

“The only people that will ever be able to speak to the BIPOC experience are BIPOC students,” she said. “It’s never a bad thing to have more support.”

Hudson added that they are thankful that LGBTQ+ students can talk to PCs who understand challenges specific to the community. 

“If [students] are struggling with something related to their identity, they can have someone who relates to what they’re going through,” Hudson said.

Albacete and Hudson said they enjoyed the opportunity to hear students embrace their individuality and growth and are eager to continue supporting them throughout their college lives.