LARCHMONT, N.Y. – Larchmont’s Emily Weitzman plans to extend her “slamily” as she travels to Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe to study slam poetry during a year-long fellowship starting in August.
The graduating Wesleyan University senior was one of about 40 to receive the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which gives her a $28,000 stipend for her independent study. Her topic of study is slam poetry.
While Weitzman has charted her year-long route, she said “the Watson” allows you to change your path along the way.
“The fact that I don’t know exactly where in the world I will be a year from now is terrifying and exciting,” said Weitzman, who graduated from Mamaroneck High School in 2010.
The English and dance double major discovered slam poetry as a freshman at a slam competition hosted by a student group called WeSlam.
“I was inspired by the poetry I heard that night and decided I wanted to try it out,” said Weitzman, who had performed in PACE and the Semi-Royal Shakespeare Company at MHS. “I thought that slam perfectly combined my interest in both writing and performing.”
After four years with WeSlam, Weitzman has won several awards at the college poetry slam nationals, including “Funniest Poem” at the 2012 competition for her poem “Couch.”
As much as slam competitions are about having fun, Weitzman said they are “just the vehicle for sharing art.
“That’s really what it’s all about – sharing your art, meeting new people, collaborating with a team, and becoming an artistic community, like a family. We call this ‘slamily,’” she said.
During her four slammin’ years at Wesleyan, Weitzman said she has met “life-changing people, which led her to wonder what that would be like in other countries.
“By immersing myself in the culture of each place, I hope to better understand what elements of slam poetry are universal and what elements are culturally diverse,” she said of her upcoming trip around the world.
The Watson doesn’t require students to produce any academic work. Instead, Weitzman plans to attend as many poetry events as possible, interview poets and experience each country and culture.
Weitzman said she hopes marshaling her observations from the various cultures will provide insights into the lives of people in each country.
“Just like slam is a vehicle for sharing art, my project is a vehicle for experiencing the world, and the people and art across the globe,” she said.