English Major Slams the Competition
by Sara Curnow Wilson
It’s been a good year for Jasmine Combs ’16.
Combs, a renaissance woman who lives by the mantra "observation, comprehension, motivation," has won writing and poetry slam competitions and was featured in Philly Voice’s “18 Young Philadelphians Shaping the Future of the City’s Creative Class.” Between all of this, she’s finding time to complete two degrees at Temple. We caught up with Jasmine to talk about her exciting year and how she got her start in slam poetry.
What are you studying here at Temple?
I am a senior majoring in English (creative writing: poetry concentration) with a Spanish minor. I'm also in a 4+1 program to get my master’s in secondary education.
Why did you pick those fields and what do you hope to do with your degrees?
I picked this as a major because writing and interacting with literature is pretty much the entirety of my life. I majored in creative writing in high school at Philadelphia's High School for Creative and Performing Arts, so it only made sense to continue with that. I minored in Spanish because I've always wanted to learn the language fluently and I'm getting my master’s in secondary ed because teaching has always been my plan B, so I figure it's best to get a master’s degree sooner rather than later.
You're making good use of your creative writing skills. Earlier this year, you won APIARY Magazine's Stung! contest for writing that captures the spirit of Philadelphia. What inspired your submission?
The piece I submitted for the APIARY Stung! contest, “Night Child,” was inspired by my childhood growing up in West Philly. The scene is reminiscent of summers spent hanging out with my friends on my Grandma's block until the sun set and streetlights came on. The piece was actually an assignment from a creative writing course in which I was supposed to utilize sound, so I also play around with assonance, alliteration and rhyme in the piece.
How did it feel to win?
I submitted to the contest on a whim. I haven't submitted my work to many magazines so I didn't really think anything of it. When I found out that I actually won, I was pleasantly surprised. My prize was that the poem was featured on APIARY's new website along side a short film that was made on my piece.
You are also the 2015 Grand Slam Champion for the Philly Pigeon. How does a poetry competition like that work?
A poetry slam is a competition in which poets compete against each other, performing original work (typically three minutes or less) and are judged by five random members of the audience. Different poetry slam venues have different rules but for The Philly Pigeon, slams are held the first Friday of every month from October to May. Poets have to compete during the season and depending on how many slams you've done and how well you did in them, you get a certain amount of qualifying points. In May, the 10 poets from the entire season with the most qualifying points compete against each other in the Grand Slam Finals. The winner is crowned Grand Slam Champion and the top five poets make up the team to go to the National Poetry Slam, where they compete against other poetry slam teams from other cities all around the nation.
When did you start performing?
I just started performing my poetry during the 2014 season of The Pigeon. This was mainly as a result of taking Poetry as Performance, a theater class at Temple taught by Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon. Since then I've performed in Oakland, Calif. for the National Poetry Slam 2014 and 2015 and in Washington, D.C. for the Individual World Poetry Slam 2015. I've also been able to join Babel Poetry Collective, which performs once a semester in our biannual showcase, Babylon. These platforms have allowed me to perform at various events around the city and to be featured on several YouTube channels.
The Pigeon recently released that you'll be joining the Pigeon collective. What does that entail?
The founders of The Philly Pigeon, Jacob Winterstein and Alyesha Wise, recently invited myself and my friend and fellow poet Kai Davis to join their team. Kai and I are coming aboard to help Jacob continue building the amazing organization that he and Wise have created.
Right now it is all very new and we are still figuring out what our roles will be but I am exited to be working on the other side of an organization that is near and dear to my heart, and I am ready to see what the future holds for us!