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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Cantab lounge features renowned poet and activist

By Facebook user Zenaida Peterson Poetry

On any given Wednesday night at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, one can pay the three dollars fee, present an ID and make way through the doorway, past the bar full of locals and the five 50-something-year-old members of the local band of the night, and down the arguably questionable stairs to the basement where song-like rhythm and words come together, in the world of slam poetry.

Upon entering the basement, one becomes engulfed in the world of the Cantab. A world of acceptance of differences which provides a platform for those to express emotions toward the oppression of those differences. People from all walks of life, ranging from MIT professors to students to the homeless, gathered to hear the artistic expression of life experiences formed from instances from the everyday to the unique. The venue is not glamorous, one visit to the restrooms will reveal that, but this only adds to the experience, as distractions are limited to completely focus on the poets’ and their artistic expression. The night began with an open mic, where members from the audience are free to test their stage presence as well as their poetry in front of the group, possibly creating the foundations for the poetry slam following or just there for the moment.

After this open mic, the group takes a quick break, and then reconvened to hear the work of the featured poet. This past Wednesday, the featured poet was Zenaida Peterson, whose focus was primarily around civil rights and gender, using current and historical events to further a personal stance on civil rights. For gender, Peterson focused on a personal journey to a current identification as a queer, non-binary person, describing both the hardships from society as well as Peterson’s personal conquest with finding an inner peace.  Peterson worked to connect with the crowd, and shared recounts of participating at the Cantab as the official starting place before broadening horizons to other venues.

“I feel all the love in here, I’ve been hoping to be a feature at the Cantab since I was just doing slam here,” said Peterson in a post poetry-session interview with The Suffolk Journal.


After Peterson presented, the poetry slam began. Audience members such as a man named “Don,” who wished to not use his last name for this article, signed up for the slam upon entering the venue at the beginning of the night waited patiently for their turn through the list of people.

“I’ve been coming to slam poetry events for awhile, and today’s the day I finally stand up and do it myself, the culture of slam is so cool, so accepting,” said Don to The Journal regarding his first time doing a poetry slam.

The slam was set up in that, going down the list in the order of which people signed their names, three poets would go in a group. Those who participated ranged from all types of subjects of poetry as well as all different types of skill level. The poetry this week spanned from gender to love to unicorns and everything in between, displaying the complexity of slam poetry at its essence; a way for people to describe themselves without judgement. The poets would get one poem for the judges to evaluate and be given a score on a scale from 0.0 to 10.0. The judges are random audience members, and only there to give “competition to draw people into listening to slam” as said by the host as he tried to recruit.

The scores for each person in the group are added up and compared against each other, from there the winner was chosen and able to move on to the next round. The second round brought out a more complex group of poets, those who have experience and are able to discuss tough topics in poetic form. The winner was then chosen, receiving a ten dollar prize as well as the opportunity to compete in the Champion Slam. 

The winner this week will move on to the “Champion Slam,” which is being held at The Cantab on Wednesday, Oct 25.

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Kaitlin Hahn, News Editor | she/her they/them
Kaitlin Hahn is the News Editor for the Suffolk Journal. She is a print journalism major and an English minor from Southern California. Kaitlin is also serving as the President of Suffolk University’s Queer Student Union and a Diversity Peer Educator for The Center for Diversity & Inclusion at Suffolk University. Through her involvement with the media and clubs on campus, Kaitlin hopes to improve Suffolk as a whole. She aspires to become a travel journalist and gain the opportunity to see and write about the world. Follow Kaitlin on Twitter @KaitlinHahn_

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Cantab lounge features renowned poet and activist