A Slammin’ Good Time

slam newsIf you”re in and around Austin this week, you”ve probably been hearing a lot of poetry. The National Poetry Slam Finals started on Wedensday and they”re really rocking down the house – or houses, as the case may be. With over 300 poets on 81 teams competing, this is the largest Nationals in the history of the National Poetry Slam. For those who don”t know, a poetry slam is a head to head poetry competition with poets each having 3 minutes in which to perform one of their own poems. That poem is then scored Olympic style by judges selected from the audience, and the high scorers take home bragging rights and other prizes, depending on the venue. In the nationals, those bragging rights include the claim to be the best poetry slam team in the whole country – and the best individual slam poet in the nation.

The scores were up at 1 AM Thursday for the team standings at the end of the first day of competition, and they were an interesting mix. Perennial favorites are in there – the New York Nuyorican team, Providence, NYC Urbana, Boston Cantab, Seattle – and two separate Austin teams are in the top 10, as well as Fort Worth, Houston and Dallas. The Indies give another layer to the competition. The high scoring poets from each day, regardless of team, have a shot at competing in the Individual finals, and there are several poets in that list whose teams didn”t make the first day top 25 cut, including Worcester”s Erin Jackson, and Boston Lizard Lounge”s Iyeoka Okoawo. Also in that list is Jared Paul of Providence, who co-hosted the North Beast Regionals that I attended last week.

But it”s not all about duking it out at the Slams. Among the events planned for the day between and around bouts are a Women”s Voices reading, a workshop on using Slam in the classroom for poets who want to work in the schools, another on Youth Poetry for poets under 18. There are workshops and classes for poets on recording their art in a digital world, publishing beyond the slam scene and surviving in a Small Press World. Tony Brown, one of our featured poets from last month, will cohost a Grief and Remembrance reading honoring grief and loss, and Taylor Mali cohosting a panel on the gray areas and loopholes in the Slam rules. That”s just a sampling of one day”s worth of Slam activities.

Stay tuned for the follow-up results after the Thursday results are posted, and the final scores on Friday. It”s Slam time, y”all!

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