Because Allen Ginsberg says, “Slam! Into the Mouth of the Dharma!”
Because Gregory Corso says, “Why do you want to hang out with us old guys? If I was young, I’d be going to the Slam!”
Because Bob Kaufman says, “Each Slam / a finality.”
—Bob Holman, from “Why Slam Causes Pain and Is a Good Thing”
In the course of the last few decades, slam has revitalized interest in poetry as a performance art. It thrives outside the constrains of academia and tradition, a powerful democratizing force that attracts a range of poets. Head to a competition and you’ll likely hear everything from searing social commentary to boisterous comic routines to lovelorn confessional epics. Slam is a force to be reckoned with, and it happens right here at AS220 every other Thursday.
If you hadn’t made it to a slam yet, you’re in luck. Tonight, six local youth poets from the Providence Slam Team prepare to compete at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Festival in Philadelphia. Join us at the Performance Space and support qualifiers Jazlyn Luben, Ian Rosales, Naomy Guiterrez, Alice Rayner, Joely Barrios, and Seth Larbi as they test their mettle with a 10-round decathlon slam.
Curious about how slam poetry shapes communities? Check out our Q&A with writing mentor and community educator Laura Brown-Lavoie.
Can you briefly describe what your organization does for the Providence community?
ProvSlam is a place for writers and performers of all kinds, all ages, all backgrounds to get together twice a month and listen to each other express ourselves.
Why do you think spoken word is valuable as a creative outlet for young people?
Young people have so much to say! And they don’t often get center stage.
How can youths or community members get involved with your organization?
There are so many ways to get involved! Anyone can come to our twice monthly shows. They are 1st and 3rd Thursdays in the performance space at 115 Empire. It’s only $4 admission, and on youth nights (every 3rd Thursday) it’s $2 for anyone 19 and under. The audience is such an important part of the energy of the show, because the best spoken word performances are a dialogue, where the performer can really feel the audience out there listening and reacting. Another way to get involved is to perform on the open mic. We post the list half an hour before the show (7:30) and it fills up quick! Anyone can sign up, as long as they are not covering copyrighted songs.
If you want to get involved in slamming you can do that too. A poetry slam is a competition in which poets take turns presenting their own original writing and judges from the audience score each poem, until, by the end of the night, there’s a winner. Every year, Providence sends six youth poets to Brave New Voices, and also an all-ages team to the National Poetry Slam. Our twice-monthly slams are the process by which the teams are selected.
Can you describe a favorite moment from one of your poetry slams?
My favorite moment is when someone goes up and says “this is a new poem” and when they read it you can tell it was something they had to write, like it was just bursting out of them, and the whole audience gets to be a witness of that necessary explosion of self-expression.
How was the ProvSlam team selected for the Brave New Voices international poetry slam?
The BNV team was selected through a series of qualifying slams, once a month, Sept-January. Then in February, the winners of our qualifiers went head-to-head to select the six team members at our Youth Finals slam. The next slam season starts up again in September!
If you can’t catch the show tonight, it’s not too late to support the team! Check out their Indiegogo campaign and help them raise funds for the trip.