Kremmling Poetry Slam: It’s not just what you say, but how you say it
April 18, 2008
“April is the cruellest month,” according to the T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land,” and those in Grand County experiencing mud season right now may agree. But the Academy of American Poets has been “seeking to remedy that cruelty by creating a wide audience for poetry” since 1996 by designating the month of April as National Poetry Month.
In honor of National Poetry Month, the Grand County libraries have a variety of poetry books on display, and Kremmling Library Youth Services Librarian Cathy Jones is hosting the library’s first-ever Poetry Slam event. East and West Grand school district English teachers are encouraged to pass along the word and the public is invited to come to Kremmling to support the talented local teens who participate.
Jones, who loves poetry and has written a few of her own poems, got the idea for the slam after attending a library workshop and said she just wants to help “bring poetry into the limelight. It puts a dual emphasis on writing and performance, encouraging poets to focus on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.” She hopes “kids will want to do something fun and express themselves,” and notes that poetry can be much like the rap music of today (although points will be deducted for bad language during the friendly competition).
Poetry slams have become quite popular over the years and this local event invites youth in grades eight through 12 to share their thoughts and feelings in poetic form. A poetry slam is similar to an open-mic reading, but is engineered more for an audience.
“Slam is designed for the audience to react vocally and openly to all aspects of the show,” Jones explains, “including the poet’s performance, the judges’ scores, and host’s banter.”
Three audience members will be chosen as honorary judges during the Poetry Slam and will be rating the poems on a scale of one to 10 based on the poet’s content and performance. Judges then call out the score they’ve given the author and the other audience members are encouraged to boo or cheer according to whether they agree or disagree with the judge.
Each poem must be the original work of the performer, who will read it aloud before a small audience at the library (part poetry, part performance but no props, costumes or musical instruments are allowed). They get three minutes to read it, plus a 10-second grace period. If they go over that allotted time, points will be deducted from their total score.
The poet who earns first place will receive a $20 gift certificate good at Amazon.com, second place receives a box of Hostess Twinkies, and third place goes home with a can of Spam.
“It’s suppose to be just a really fun time,” Jones said.
She said one of the best things about a poetry slam “is the range of poets it attracts.
You’ll find a diverse range of work within slam, including heartfelt love poetry, searing social commentary, uproarious comic routines, and bittersweet personal confessional pieces. Poets are free to do work in any style on any subject.” Winning the slam, she continued, requires some skill “and a huge dose of luck” and Jones advises those interested in taking the stage to “practice, practice, practice” just like they would if they were going to perform at Carnegie Hall.
Sign-up is at the Kremmling Library and no sign-up is necessary if someone just wants to be part of the audience or judges. The event is free for everyone and refreshments will be served.
Those seeking inspiration or who just want to check out some examples of spoken word (poetry with theatrics) are encouraged to check out http://www.podslam.org (some bad language is involved).