SLAM AND MORE: Last night, I was a judge for the Java Monkey Speaks Poetry Slam in Decatur. The competition was decide who would be on the team representing Atlanta at the National Poetry Slam in New Mexico this August. This will be the first year Atlanta has sent a team since 2000.

There are so many misconceptions about poetry slams...much of it perpetrated by academic poets who feel threatened by this evolution in poetry. Let me clear this up right away: there is no such thing as "slam" poetry. This is not a form, like a sonnet or a villanelle. A slam is a competition. Poets of all types pick their best work, have a time limit of three minutes and a panel of randomly selected judges from the audience scores from 1 to 10. That's slam in a nutshell. Unfortunately, another myth is that slams are the domain of young, black males. Totally untrue, and if you had been in the standing room only crowd at Java Monkey last night, you would have seen that slam is open to black and white, men and women, young and old.

Poetry Atlanta is funding the team's trip to the nationals, after successfully receiving grant money from the Fulton County Arts Council and others. Java Monkey host Kodac Harrison will be the slam master, which is a sort of chaperone, who will take the team to New Mexico. On the team: Bryan Patillo, Reggie Skywalker, Tavarious and Jon Goode. These four will represent Atlanta well. They are passionate and can bring a crowd to its feet with their wordplay.

Java Monkey had its largest crowd ever, with every seat taken on the patio, folks sitting on the floor and standing all the way back out to Church Street. Although only four poets were selected for the team, the 12 competitors were all stars. The 12 poets were selected through a series of smaller slams that started last fall, so those performing Sunday night were the best of the best. Rupert Fike, a brilliant poet, wowed the crowd, but went over his three minute time limit and had points deducted. Theresa Davis had the crowd roaring with her funny take on Steven Spielberg films. Basic Knowledge, a young poet who traveled all the way from Savannah to compete and is now an alternate for the national team, did an amazing poem about being harassed by bill collectors using showtunes and nursery rhymes.

You just never know what you're going to get at a slam. That's what makes for an exciting evening. I am thrilled to have been part of this whole process. I wrote the grant for Poetry Atlanta to help get the funding, so I feel like the winners are my "babies" in a way...going off into the west to do Atlanta proud.

Besides the slam, I led marketing/publishing workshop for the Georgia Writers Association on Saturday morning. I was only expecting four or five folks and had 12 instead! It was fun and I think the folks got a lot out of it. I also wound up filling in for a bit after my pal Cherryl had a car accident (she's fine) on her way to read and talk about her life as a writer for the Georgia Writers.

That evening, I went to a reading organized by Lady Hardin at the Om2Om spiritual center. I was totally unprepared for this event. Lady had asked me to participate months ago, and then reminded me of it last week. I brought inappropriate material (which I seem to have more and more of these days) to read, but it was interesting. The Om2Om center is for Buddhists and the owner was encouraging everyone to come and meditate or take classes. I also wasn't expecting to have to watch a nearly two hour film about a Buddhist nun. Luckily, it was interesting. I was about to fall out I was so tired. I came home and passed out.

On Sunday afternoon, before Java, I went up to the Barnes & Noble at The Forum to read at Lisa Allender's Second Sunday event. Somehow the wires were crossed and Lisa thought I was bringing a bunch of poets who had been published in the Shout Them From The Mountain Tops anthology. I wound up being the featured poet. There was a nice audience and I met some new folks and talked with old friends.

I leave for the Austin Poetry Festival on Thursday. More soon...

Comments

Jeneane Sessum said…
That is all AWESOME NEWS!!!! (except the part about the friend's car accident). Congrats to you and the ATL area poets rocking the house and heading to God's Country, as they say!
Teamaster said…
Fare well, Collin!

-D.
Teamaster said…
Great quote by comedian Lewis Black...

"What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican? The Democrat blows; the Republican sucks."

:)

-D.
iconpoet said…
You were wonderful at Om2Om. That's the reason we wanted you to perform because you would bring that "Collin" energy that only...well, only YOU could bring(what with you being Collin and all)
BTW, did you read the article that the lady (Dr. Mary Grabar) wrote in the CL about the Slam?

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