Friday, August 1, 2008

There Once Was a Poet From Tucson…

What do you get when you combine a group of poets with no holds barred competition? The Poetry Slam! Whoever thought of this competition is a genius. What could be better than to listen to some the areas best poets recite original poetry knowing that the audience is free to cheer, boo, hiss, or snap their fingers while the poets are on stage baring their innermost, heartfelt feelings?

This was another great event I discovered through the Tucson Single Professionals. It was not only a competition, but a fundraiser for Team Tucson to help them go to the national competition in Milwaukee. Yes, there is a national Poetry Slam competition.

Team TucsonThis night’s competition was between Team Tucson and a team from the University of Arizona. It was held at the Poetry Center at 1508 E. Helen street. I haven’t been inside the Poetry Center yet, but the emcee for the night explained that it contains one of the largest collections of poetry available. Literary heaven, figuratively speaking.

The rules Poetry Slam were simple enough. There were ten rounds, each team allowed one poem per round. At the end of each round the audience applauded for the team they thought won the round. At the end of the ten rounds the team winning the most rounds won the competition.

MatthewThe emcee’s name was Matthew, and was also the coach for Team Tucson. His other duties included organizer and rule maker. One of the first things he did as rule maker was to throw out the rules he sent to the poets before the event. At the last minute the teams found out they: had to improvise a poem from a word suggested by the audience, had to give one of their poems to the other team to perform, and write a limerick about the other team. (This rule produced grimaces and groans from the teams. Limericks must not be held in high regard by poets.)

The competition began with a piece recited by Team Tucson. Three team members got onstage and performed with lines spoken alternately by one, two or all three of the poets in perfect staccato. It was beautiful to hear, and made it clear that presentation would be almost as important as the poetry itself.

With a name like “Poetry Slam” I had expected the poetry to be light-hearted. The second recital of the night from Team Tucson dashed those expectations quickly as the poet told a heart wrenching story of her sister, an abusive father, and an uncaring mother. It was brilliantly performed, but somehow seemed out of place given the night’s format.

Team University of ArizonaOne of the best performances of the night was from the U of A team. Team Tucson used the give-the-other-team-one-of-your-poems rule to hand the all male U of A team a poem about female sexuality. The artist took the poem and ran with it, totally embracing his feminine side and performed the piece with attitude. You go girl!

Listening to the competitionThe winner of the evening’s competition turned out to be Team Tucson, even though Matthew gave one of the Team Tucson rounds to U of A to even the score before the final round.

When it was all said and done there were lots of laughs, lots of applause, a few hisses, and a few "boo’s (mostly aimed at Matthew).

I discovered that poetry slam competition is held every second and fourth Saturdays during the school year at Bentley's House of Coffee and Tea, 1730 East Speedway. Very cool.

Here’s another bonus: one of the poets for Team Tucson has his own blog and will be blogging every day from the national competition. He is known as Faldwin the Bard, and you can visit his blog at:


Ann said...

this sounds really great. i'd love to go to the one at bentley's sometime.

Robert said...

Hi Ann! Yeah, I'm adding that as one of my regular weekend activities too.

- Robert