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By Donna Yee (October 17, 2007)

Freshman Travis Harris Winner of Slam Poetry Contest Held by Spread the Word

Travis Harris

Travis Harris (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

"I like to focus on the personalities of people and the interactions between people," said Travis Harris, winner of the Slam Poetry Contest held by Spread the Word, when asked about subjects for his poetry.

Harris, a freshman from Washington Heights, N.Y., majoring in accounting, won first prize at the Slam Poetry Contest on Sept. 19 at the UAlbany Campus Center Corner Café. He learned of the contest through a friend who had seen a flier advertising the event, which was sponsored by UAlbany's performance poetry group, Spread the Word.

Harris has been asked to perform again Thursday, Oct. 25, at A Night of Poetry with Taalam Acey and Devin "The Poet," featuring Nick Hollywood. The Spread the Word event begins at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall, is free and open to the public, and is co-sponsored by Danes after Dark.

Harris admits that he was nervous before the September event. It was the first time he had entered a poetry slam contest in Albany. (He previously performed in April at an arts festival in Brooklyn.) In addition, there were more people at the café than he had expected, about 60 people. Harris had prepared and memorized four poems for the competition.

Asked how he prepared, Harris said, "I kept thinking about how much I wanted the prize money, and it helped me stay in the zone."

While Harris has been affected by many, a major influence in his poetry comes from his older brother Terrence, a professional rapper who attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. Harris's interest in poetry and rhymes began in fourth grade, and when he began to write, his interests led him not just to attend shows, but to perform spoken word. He started as a rapper and then moved to poetry.

In addition to his interest in spoken word, for some four years Harris helped train emergency medical technicians for their state exams at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice, where he would participate as a victim during examinations. He became involved in training EMTs because his father is one of the directors for the EMT course.

Harris was born and raised in Harlem, but went to school in Washington Heights, and spent most of his time in the Bronx and Brooklyn. He is a graduate of the Calhoun School, an independent college prep school in Manhattan.


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