Five local poets are heading to West Palm Beach, Florida, to represent Maine in the 2009 National Poetry Slam during the first week of August. The event, which features five nights of spoken-word poetry bouts, has taken place in a different city every year since 1990; in 1995, Maine took fourth place, and last year, after a long competition hiatus, the team split the field and placed 36th (out of 80 teams).
This year's group, decided by the audience after a round of finals and semi-finals at the North Star Music Café, is: Sam Teitle, Jazz (Jasper Wood), Nate A (Nathan Amadon), One L (Wil Gibson), and T Money (Tina Smith). Some other Portlanders are considering coming along for the ride and to offer support.
Amadon, who helps organize the successful Second Tuesday Slams at the North Star (see "Word on the Street," by Deirdre Fulton, December 26, 2007), has simple goals for this year's team.
"People forget that we're up here," he says, of slam artists in Maine. "I want us to put Portland back on the map as far as spoken word goes."
Already, the Tuesday slams and the prospect of national recognition have helped create a buzz here in town, he says. "We found that by having brought a team [to last year's competition in Madison, Wisconsin], and actually showing that we have slams every month ... people are taking it seriously." To that end, the field that competed to be part of this year's traveling slam team was "three and four times better than what we've seen in the past few years," Amadon says.
One relatively new face on the slam scene is woman-about-town Tina Smith, who took such a liking to the art form that she launched an open mic program for teens at the Meg Perry Center. "Slam poetry is a newly discovered creative outlet for me that provides space for me to react to my emotions and experiences in a positive and thoughtful way," she says. "Reading my poetry on stage forces me to be more intentional with my word choice and be more considerate of my audience."
Not to mention the challenges (and advantages) the medium provides. "When I slam it's just me using my own voice and that is really empowering," Smith says. "While I have my share of love poems, I'm mostly known for reprimanding 'The Man' for social injustices ... In my poems, I'm usually holding people accountable, including myself, for the suffering of humanity. Lately, I've been writing more personal pieces about my past experiences in attempts of explaining, or perhaps for making excuses for, why and how I became the person I am today."
The slam team will hold several fundraisers between now and August to help pay for their trip to Florida. Visit portveritas.com for dates and locations.