Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, but poets aren’t. With the advent of slam poetry, verse is leaping off the page and mixing it up in venues across the country.
This Friday, Sept. 28, WMPG and the USM Portland Campus will bring slam poetry to the University in an event called Slamarama 2001
Slam poetry, which began in the late 80s, is a competitive poetry reading. Judges selected from the audience score each poet’s performance, while audience members, generally a demure crowd, are free to express their opinions of both the poems and the judges’ scores.
Jay Davis, the host of Slamarama, hopes that this event will draw a variety of competitors and spectators.
“The plan is we hope to have some high school kids who’ve never read at a formal slam. And we hope to get some of the USM poetry people,” he said.
Davis hosts a monthly open reading and slam on the second Tuesday of the month at the Skinny in Portland and traveled earlier this year to the national slam in Seattle. He believes that by getting the audience involved, this kind of performance makes poetry more accessible to the general public.
“There is an element of thumbing the nose at the tightly buttoned traditional poetry crowd, where no one is allowed to express any feelings about the poems they’re hearing,” said Davis.
In that spirit, judges are not drawn from a pool of poetry experts, but from the general audience population at each event.
“The reason the judges are picked from the audience is to keep the standards popular as opposed to academic and constrained,” Davis said, “Slam poetry is for the masses, and we let the masses judge it for ourselves!”
WMPG, which will record and rebroadcast Slamarama 2001, has been working toward bringing poetry to the people for some time now. On Thursdays at 11 a.m., the station airs “Voice Alone,” hosted by William Burke. The show has so far been comprised of Burke’s readings from classic and contemporary poetry, but he will debut live readings by poets themselves with the winners of Slamarama.
“He’s trying to introduce all different styles,” said Jessica Lockhart, WMPG’s program director and an organizer of Slamarama.
The slam came about at the suggestion of one of the station’s DJs. Lockhart and Davis worked together to plan an event that will have two divisions, one for high school students and one open division.
Lockhart has high hopes that this will be good for poets and good for the community as well.
“We chose Luther Bonney because we’re interested in working with the USM community,” she said.
For those who have yet to experience competitive performance poetry, Friday’s slam should be a rousing intro.
According to Davis, “Portland, interestingly, has a reputation of having one of the most vocal and outspoken audiences in the country.”
Slamarama 2001 will take place Friday, Sept. 28 at the Luther Bonney Auditorium on the Portland Campus. Sign up starts at 6:30. The event runs from 7-9:30 p.m. For more information, email: [email protected]