Let's talk about team sports for a minute. Let's set aside the Indians' tugging of our playoff hopes back and forth. Let's forget about the Browns' draft picks. NEO's Lake Effect Poetry Slam Team is heading to Boston for Nationals in a few weeks, and they need our full attention.
When I first started dipping my toes into the poetry reading scene, I didn't know anything about slam other than what I could glean from the comments of other poets and snippets of Def Poetry Jam I might have caught once or twice. I filled in the blanks with a lot of misconceptions. Such as:
Poetry slam is for teenagers. Slam is like hip-hop. Slam is for street poets. Slam is not for little, Catholic, white girls. Slam poets need to rhyme their poems. Slam poets need to improv their poems. Slam poets need to memorize their poems. Slam poets...need to...recite their...poems...like this... Poetry slam is about pitting one artist against another in a mean-spirited fight. Poetry slam isn't "real" poetry.
I quickly learned that slam was none of those things I used to think it was.
Slam is a poetry performance competition. Some poems lend themselves more readily to performance competition than others, but there is no defined genre for slam. Slam showcases a skill that every poet in every venue needs: the ability to not only write an effective poem, but to then read/perform it in an engaging manner. Yes, there are some bad slam poems, but there are also some bad academic poems. And some of the best slam poems I've heard were on page.
Fast forward six years from those first open mics, and I found myself in Charlotte, NC for the 2012 National Poetry Slam, as Northeast Ohio's Grand Slam Champion. It was thrilling, terrifying, and inspiring to be around so many poets, to hear so many different voices, to be in front of so many different people. Writing is a solitary activity, but slam is a team sport--a team sport with a national community.
National Poetry Slam is a chance for poets to stand in front of people from across the country and show off what we're doing here at home. And with this year's team--AKeemjamal Rollins, Caira Lee, Ariana Cheree, and Christine Howey--Boston's going to be buzzing about Cleveland.
But Lake Effect is still short of funds needed to get to Boston. The good news is that they have a handful of fundraiser events coming up in the next couple weeks before they leave. The better news is that you still have a chance to hear their poetry before they leave.
Check out the schedule of Lake Effect fundraisers and readings, wish them well on their trip, and root root root for the home team!