TerPoets creates unique space for students to showcase their writing through verbal performance

By Arya Hodjat

Senior Tayo Omisore performed at MilkBoy ArtHouse Aug. 30 for the “Milk x Honey: Artist Series,” a monthly collaborative event between the venue and TerPoets. Photo courtesy Tayo Omisore.

In conjunction with its usual array of vegetarian-friendly options, Stamp Student Union’s Maryland Food Collective added slam poetry to its menu at its Open Mic Night Sept. 22.

The event was held during Stamp’s 2017 All Niter program, which provided ongoing weekend festivities from noon until 3 a.m., though TerPoets performs at the Food Collective’s open mic night every other Friday.

TerPoets is a student-run group on campus that provides a creative outlet for UMD students to engage in slam poetry, spoken-word and musical performances.

Regular TerPoet group members are part of the University of Maryland’s first-ever Slam Poetry Team, and have competed in the annual College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) since 2015.

On its website, the group describes itself as a “platform for free and open expression” —  an environment that members believe is sorely needed, given the recent political climate.

“We make it our first priority to let people know that this is a safe space,” senior accounting major and TerpPoets Treasurer Tayo Omisore said. “As a student of color, you don’t realize how few spaces there are for you to speak confidently and vulnerably.”

TerPoets team member Maud Acheampong said much of her poetry aligns with her experiences as a student of color on this campus, and as a first-generation Ghanaian American, she believes slam poetry is needed more than ever in today’s world.

“A lot of my family is here under DACA, and they’re terrified,” said Acheampong, a sophomore government and politics major. “It’s definitely needed, especially now, when people feel so small.”

TerPoets president and junior studio art major Asiana Phan said TerPoets has existed on this campus, to some capacity, for more than 40 years — though it was officially acknowledged as a student initiative in 2006, and according to Phan, the current iteration has only been in existence since last year.

TerPoets is based out of the Jimenez-Porter Writer’s House, a Living and Learning program for writers, located in Queen Anne’s Hall. Both Phan and Omisore are involved in the program, as is about half of the slam poetry team, according to Omisore.

Because the open mic nights attract such a diverse range of students, Phan said a variety of themes are showcased each performance, some of which include sexual assault, loss and personal fears.

“People are sharing their most traumatic experiences here,” Phan said. “It’s a lot of raw feeling, emotion [and] people trying to reach out.”

TerPoets member and junior environmental policy major Sophia Hirrel said slam poetry has helped her open her eyes to issues she had not necessarily considered prior.

“A lot of slam poetry is about white supremacy…and how people don’t want to be marginalized,” Hirrel said. “These were things that I never really noticed growing up, and I feel like it’s made me more sensitive to these marginalized communities.”

In partnership with TerPoets, the MilkBoy ArtHouse venue will host a monthly open mic event, deemed “Milk x Honey: Artist Series,” as a way to bring the community together through performance.

“We invite talent from the university and the greater College Park area to come party with us,” Omisore said.


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