Poetry, provocative? You bet your sweet sister. Step into the world of Slam Poetry and any preconceived notions you have about how drudgingly boring poetry is — especially listening to it — will be blown to hell. Slam Poetry is performance poetry. It’s wild ass drama, but at the same time it’s good stuff, gut level word crafting that speaks to the soul. Think a roller derby of words.
Become an initiate this week when Arkansas’ top slam poets go head-to-head in a slam between Fayetteville’s Ozark Poetry Slam and Little Rock’s Rock Town Slam at 7 p.m. Saturday at Rogue on Dickson Street.
As with all slams, the winners are decided by five judges, who are randomly selected from the audience. The judges score the poets using Olympic-style judging, ranking the poets from 0 to 10. The high and low scores for each poet are dropped.
Building itself on the shoulders of giants such as Clayton Scott and Brenda Moossy, the Ozark Poetry Slam team is made up of the best slam poets in the area. The team competes both locally and nationally, and will represent Arkansas at the National Poetry Slam in St. Paul, Minn., and also send a representative to the Individual World Poetry Slam championship. The team is Houston, Thomas French, Sparkman and Michelle Miesse.
Houston was introduced to slam in 2007 and headed a slam scene at Hendrix College that made three appearances at the College Unions Poetry Slam nationals, and won multiple individual awards. Houston has taught poetry seminars at high schools, the Arkansas Governor’s School and Hendrix. This year, after being on the Ozark Poetry Slam team for only one year, he grabbed the top spot on the team.
French recently graduated from the UA with a math degree, and according to his teammates, “being a mathematician, he is incredibly awkward.” His poetry is more like monologues. “He just gets up and says things. Sometimes they make sense. Often they are funny.” This is his first time on a poetry slam team.
Sparkman prides himself on being a homegrown poet from Prairie Grove. He represented his home state in the Individual World Poetry Championship last year and is currently studying poetry at the UA. He spends his spare time traveling across the U.S. to slam competitions.
Miesse has been involved in the Fayetteville poetry slam scene since 2007 when she joined the UA slam team. She helmed the UA Coffeehouse Committee for two years and was responsible for bringing slam poetry to the UA.
The slam alternate is veteran slammer Harry McDermott. McDermott was attending a “Death Party” where guests were required to write a poem about death. After a slam poet heard McDermott’s poem, he convinced McDermott that he should do slam poetry. It turned out that slam poetry was better than journaling for McDermott and a better opportunity for a cerebral peer group. So, once a month, McDermott takes his thoughts about life, swirls them into a knife, and stabs them into the hearts of unsuspecting audiences.
If you want to try the mic yourself, there’s an open mic before the match. Admission to the slam is $5 at the door.
The Music Gods Are Shining
It’s another one of those weeks in NWA, when the music options are outrageously fine. The big shows are The AMP shows under the big top at the Northwest Arkansas Mall. Saturday night is Blue Oyster Cult and Georgia Satellites — the Bikes, Blues & Hot Rods, Too event is going on at the mall this weekend, too — followed by The Indigo Girls on Wednesday night with Tiffany Christopher opening.
Next Thursday night, the Gulley Park free summer concert series kicks-off with NWA rockers, Big ’Uns led by NAMA Hall of Fame winner Darren Ray. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Bring seating.
Support local music by getting out for the Candy Lee and The Sweets CD release party Wednesday night at Teatro Scarpino and next Thursday night catch two recharged super acts doing all original tunes, Wade Ogle and The Mad Spirits and Jason Paul and New Wine at George’s.
And it you haven’t made it to Eureka Springs yet for the May Fine Arts Festival, there’s music all day in Basin Park and gallery walks on Friday and Saturday nights. All free!