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Poetry slammed...

Slam poetry originated in Chicago in 1984.
Slam poetry originated in Chicago in 1984.

So...I just competed in my very first poetry slam and like most things in my life everything is so grandiose in my mind. Overall it was a good experience although someone stole my suede blazer (that I paid full price for) and that almost ruined my night. I met some awesome people though. HBO Def Jam poet Thea Monyee has got to be one of the most hilarious women on the planet.Her commentary on the nights events and patrons had me laughing all night. But on to the slam.

I have heard several poets express their views on slamming from good to bad.Poets have said to me that they feel it compromises the art and everything becomes centered on performance and I can see how that can be an issue. For other poets however, slamming played an integral role in how they made a name for themselves. Having participated in only one slam I can say that its not for the insecure or weak. For those who don't excel and move on to the next round it can be rejection at its most extreme level. Though I did not witness any tears last night, a few poets that did not advance did appear to be somewhat dejected. I myself did not advance yet, I was extremely proud of my performance. I was the only poet to have my website printed in my bio on the program and thus gained the exposure of 100+ people. I felt that I represented well. I am not a rapper. I am not a circus clown. I am not an actress. I am a poet. Last night I recited a poem with as much fervor and intensity as I could muster. I made myself proud. I count it a success.

So now the question is, do I participate in more slams or stick to poetry in non-competitive arenas? Well, I think I want to do another one. I took notes last night. I want to apply what I've learned and see what happens. There is a method to slamming. I mean, let's be truthful, it's not an ordinary open mic when there is $500 at stake. I'm torn though because I can't fathom compromising the art for applause or points from random people that may or may not know anything about the craft. The piece I read is titled "For Keisha" which you all can hear on my website. One of the randomly picked judges was sitting on the front row and the whole time I was speaking she was looking at me like we were in Russia and I was speaking Mandarin Chinese! I wanted to ask her "Lady what the hell don't you understand!? This ain't even my "deepest" poem!"  I mean I read books. It is conveyed when I write and I won't apologize for it. See this is what I mean, you can't be insecure about your work. They could have gave me a score of 1.0 and I still would have walked off of that stage not doubting the caliber and quality of work I presented.

I did take issue with some of the politics of this particular slam but that is neither here nor there. I was unable to sell as much product as I would have liked but man...did I have fun! Phillipia Williams had me sweating out my perm before the show even started! That sista is a BEAST!

Ok. Now your turn. Leave a comment and let me know how y'all feel about poetry slams. It doesn't matter if your take is from the view of the artist , a randomly picked judge, or just an audience member.


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  • Naomi Pabon-Figueroa 5 years ago

    Congratulations on completing your first slam! I fell in love with slam poetry 10 years ago, but know it is not the avenue for me. Slam is a commitment, I'd say go with your gut instinct. It can be something for you to explore and grow in, see where life takes you! I love slam because it's a way of connecting with the poet. I can see how some people feel slam focuses too much on performance and compromises quality, but anyone with a pen can write something and call it a poem. More people writing poems may make it difficult to find high quality, but for the first time in a long time poetry is accessible and representative of more people.

  • Jackson Harlem 5 years ago

    Ohhh, congratulations, madame Truth! I wish I could've witnessed that greatness that is you.

    I say continue competing; you are not compromising anything, only sharpening yourself in a new way. I competed and won my first time "SLAMming", competing against State Poet Laureates & Pulitzer Prize winners, so winning gave me experience, more self-assurance, but also the respect among a new generation of poetry veterans.

    You are wonderful. Compete as you desire. You can do anything.

    J. Harlem

  • Thea Monyee 5 years ago

    At least we met each other=) Great article!

  • Soul (poetry examiner) 5 years ago

    This was a very informative article. I've never performed in a slam, because I personally don't feel I would succeed at it, but I love watching my fellow poets go give their all in a raw and random way!

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