Local Slam Poet talks art, boxing

Judea Archie-Walker performing her Slam Poetry on the campus of CMU. (Jalisa Cannon | Grand Central Magazine)

“Can I get you guys to dim the house lights please?” she asks.

Judea Archie-Walker is no stranger to performing in front of large audiences but still cringes at the thought of seeing their faces.

When she looks out in front of her, she’d rather see lights.

“Picturing the audience naked doesn’t work for me,” she laughs.

Judea began writing poetry five years ago during her junior year in high school. Not just any poetry, but Slam Poetry. And now, she’s what those in the poetry world like to call a Slammer; someone who performs their Slam Poetry.

“Slam Poetry is different from regular poetry because it’s meant to be performed and not read. It’s very high energy, and encompasses your whole body,” Judea motions.

Watching Judea perform for the first time is an amazing experience, especially for those who haven’t encountered this particular art form before. It can be overwhelming depending on her topic of choice.

“I usually choose my topic based on the event I’m performing at,” she says. “Like if it’s for Black History Month, I’ll try to do something pertaining to that.”

However, Judea draws inspiration from almost anyone and anything. College experiences alone give her enough to write about but the news, random television shows and people in general inspire the thoughts that eventually manifest as poems.

Her talent with the pen, paper and her thoughts had long been utilized before her junior year in high school however. Reading and writing were passions of hers before poetry came into the picture.

They only helped to refine the skills she would later use to become the poet she is today.

“Becoming a good Slam Poet doesn’t happen overnight,” she iterates. “There are a lot of things that go into performing Slam Poetry.”

She feels that it’s all about being intimate with the audience and making them believe what you’re saying. It’s about eye contact, emotion and a true love for the art.

“I never read off of paper because in a way it ruptures the connection I have with my audience,” Judea claims. “And if you can’t grasp and keep the attention of the audience you shouldn’t be on stage.”

Although she appears calm, cool and collected while on stage, just like every other poet, she’s had her share of embarrassing moments.

“One time I was doing a poem and I kept forgetting the words,” she laughs. “What made it so bad was that it was an old poem but the night before the performance when I was rehearsing I changed some things and it was hard to remember all the changes.”

Nevertheless, she still managed to pull off a win even after the blunders. Oftentimes the message is more powerful than the mistakes.

One of the founding members of a poetry group on Central Michigan University’s campus called WordHammer, Judea has learned to simply keep going and push through any mistakes that may occur.

Through her help as head of public relations for the group, Judea has done a lot to get their name out there, including sponsoring poetry slams and holding open mic nights.

“Our poetry slams and open mic nights usually have great turnouts,” she says. “The most rewarding part for me is having someone come up after the show and ask about how they can join the group.”

“It lets me know that we’ve touched someone who may not have ever heard of Slam Poetry but our words inspired them enough to want to learn more and write their own poems,” she beams.

She remembers when she was that same curious person wanting to learn more about the movement. Others saw the potential in her and she knew she had the talent. It was just a matter of practice and determination to get to where she is now.

Yet writing and performing poetry isn’t the only thing Judea does in her spare time. Sports hold a small place in her heart as well. During her freshman year at CMU she was on the track team, most known for her success with the shot put.

She also took up boxing as a fun way to exercise and relieve stress.

“Boxing was never something I saw myself doing but I accidentally stumbled upon it and liked it so much I just continued,” she says.

When she’s not hiding out in quiet corners jotting down ideas for her next poem, Judea can be found at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort where she works as a line service cook. Otherwise she’s providing in-home help to the elderly as a direct care worker at Listening Ear of Mount Pleasant.

As for her career plans, Judea plans to be an academic adviser on the collegiate level. A far stretch from anything poetic but it’s what she’s always wanted to do.

“No matter what I do or where I go, poetry will always be a part of me,” Judea exclaims.