Cantab Recap for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kevin Spak at his July 24, 2014 feature. Photo by Marshall Goff.

A bittersweet night at the Cantab last night, folks: the much-beloved host and producer Kevin Spak presented a farewell feature for his birthday eve, one of the two remaining nights he’ll be a local regular at the Boston Poetry Slam. It wasn’t all tears and sadness, mind you: in honor of the night and his home venue, Spak presented a unique, carefully crafted, utterly new and incredibly fun murder mystery feature! Something like a cross between Cluedo, a Host Your Own Murder Mystery Party, and a superstar poetry headliner, the wild arc of Spak’s show had the audience hanging on every word. Here are some great shots of the show from Marshall Goff, one of our official BPS photographers:

Still wondering whodunnit? You’ll have just one more chance to buy Spak’s chapbook: next week at the 2014 Boston Poetry Slam Team send-off feature, wherein his partner, 2014 team member Melissa Newman-Evans, also bids us farewell for the airy confines of Denver, Colorado.

Mind you, some folks were able to make a perfectly good gander at the identity of the killer last night: our congratulations go to Nathan Comstock, who was the first to guess correctly (and win a free chapbook!). Unfortunately, Nathan’s luck only extended to the final round of the slam, where he was ousted by remarkable rising rookie Jake Villarreal. Congrats to Jake, who’ll be be one of eight folks looking to take on Ellyn Touchette at the Champion of Champions Slam in just a few weeks!

So, next week: as we said, it’s the 2014 Boston Poetry Slam Team send-off feature, which is a $5 cover charge in order to help fund our team go to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland in just a few short weeks. Team members Melissa Newman-Evans, Meaghan Ford, Sean Patrick Mulroy, Omoizele Okoawo, and Janae Johnson will rock the house for a full hour, delivering their most polished slam work and all the group pieces they’re packing to NPS… Plus the latest team chapbook will be available for purchase.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, July 16, 2014

You guys. YOU GUYS. What a great slam at the Cantab last night! Thanks so much to everyone who came, and especially our kick-ass slammers from Port Veritas, Manchester, the Lizard Lounge, and Urbana NYC.

We started the night with an open mic, as usual, but a number of non-usual folks came out to see us; a good number of first-timers hit the stage, with so many new and interesting voices and ideas! Really hoping to see these folks back on one of our future Wednesdays.

The slam itself was a deathmatch among four teams slamming outside of their home venues and trying to win the crowd’s (and judges’) acclaim! Host Kevin Spak introduced the kick-off sacrifice, an energetic Emerson Poetry Project group piece about the politics of body wash by Kieran Collier and Maggie Dunleavey, the slam got underway quick with the transition from this funny and topical piece to the second sacrifice, an intense piece of on-page hindsight from visiting celebrity April Ranger. (And if those can’t prepare a set of slam judges for what’s about to happen to them, we don’t know what will.)

Round one started in earnest with an emergency substitution: Zanne Langlois, former Cantab Champion of Champions and fill-in for a missing Port Veritas slammer, kicked in the door with her working-parts school shooting poem. She was followed up by the first of many group pieces in the slam, a brand-new-to-us three-woman layered piece about “just girls” from Nora Meiners, Porsha Olayiwola, and Lissa Piercy of the Lizard Lounge. Urbana followed suit with Anthony Ragler and Omar Holmon offering excellently rendered advice to black men in horror films (“RUUUUUNN!”). Slam Free or Die was also riding high on the group piece love with a five-poet (!) “Spoiler Alert” that capitalized on the whole team of Christopher Clauss, Bobby Crawford, Sam Rush, Mckendy Fils-Aimé, and Tim Hopkins.

Ultimately, Urbana eeked out a 0.1 lead over the Lizard to take the first round more than a point ahead of the other two teams. Looking to seal the deal early, they hit the stage at the beginning of round two with Jared Singer and a sweetly constructed poem about “love in parts” with a great callback to SFoD’s spoiler alerts; however, despite a massive crowd response, the returned score was the lowest of the night, including a time penalty! The other three teams all looked to recover ground with a strong first-time showing from Portland rookie Kirsten Uhde, a solo piece from top SFoD scorer Christopher, and a second group piece from Lizard showcasing Lissa writing into a poem by Harlym125. Lizard took the top score in the round by just under a point, putting them up on Urbana by 0.8 and bringing all four teams to within two points of one another with two rounds remaining.

SFoD started out round three (slam’s traditional “weird round”) with Mckendy and a baller performance of “Whistling Vivaldi,” good enough make a two-point jump in the scores from the last round. However, Jared and Omar returned to the stage together for another high-energy group piece about their surprising lack of “uncle shower,” tieing with the previous poem even with another time penalty! The Lizard Lounge was also showcasing lots of group work in the slam, bringing a third piece to the stage that centered Harlym125 on the stage with four women offstage in a rapid-fire interview, while Port Veritas responded with a sweet solo piece from Arwyn Sherman on how a cat is preferable to a man-thing. Urbana took the top score in this round, cutting Lizard’s lead back down to 0.1 with SFoD just over a point behind.

Neiel Israel opened up the final round with the night’s biggest score so far (and what would stand as the highest solo score), a beautifully blocked piece about how a black man walks. Tim Hopkins followed strong for SFoD with a powerful piece about addiction in the suburbs. A third burn-up-the-stage solo piece about Merry Clayton came up next from Portland’s Ellyn Touchette. Finally, Urbana played one last group-piece with the much-anticipated duo of Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood, garnering the highest score of the night and topping the Lizard Lounge by just under a point.

Special thanks, of course, are due to our judges: Sam, Tyler, Colleen, Alaina, and the surprisingly efficient trio (!) of Amanda, Deepa, and Chevali. Applause and appreciation for these super-fast, super-consistent, and super-good-spirited folks who helped make the slam happen.

Final standings: Urbana #1, Lizard Lounge #2, Slam Free or Die #3, Port Veritas #4. Make no mistake, all four of these teams are mind-blowingly ready for the National Poetry Slam in just a few weeks. What an great night!

Next week: you’ve seen him host, now see him feature! Kevin Spak celebrates a birthday and moves to Denver all in the same week, so we might as well get some poems out of him, too. Don’t miss this lovely co-host’s farewell feature as we close another chapter in Cantab history.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When the SlamMaster’s away… Emily Carroll and Sean Patrick Mulroy will rule the house with an iron fist! These two dictators employed Nora Meiners and other stern-faced staffers last Wednesday night to make sure no one had even a moment of fun during our sweet and jam-packed open mic. The feature was the cool and nearly emotionless Nathan Comstock, who of course would never touch on the tender concepts of family, young love, or Schrodinger’s cat during his much-awaited feature. Lastly, the massive ten-dollar slam prize went home with the indubitably sour bartender Adam Stone, who defeated the bloodthirsty and ill-tempered Jess Riz for the win.

This Wednesday: everything is back to normal– except that it’s a hyooooge NorthBEAST Regional 4×4 in the feature slot! Teams from Port Veritas in Portland, Slam Free or Die in Manchester, Urbana from New York City, and the Lizard Lounge from down the street will face off in a winner-take-bragging rights practice bout for this August’s National Poetry Slam. Keep in mind that it’s a $5 cover that night to help raise money to send our own slam team to NPS.

Cantab Recap for July 2, 2014

How is it always the middle of summer when Patricia Smith comes to visit us? Does the hot weather bring her to us or, as might be suggested, is she simply guaranteed to bring the heat? Our co-founder burned up the stage last night with an extended set (really, who stops Patricia from reading) that turned out tons of old-schoolers and a good number of the newly educated for the show. If you missed it… All we can say is that you’ll want to mark your calendar for whenever we can schedule the next one.

To help you ease down off Patricia’s remarkable feature, we are proud to offer two Cantab regulars at our shows this week: first will be Chloé Cunha at Moonlighting on Thursday, July 3, at her last poetry appearance before she leaves for Paris for the summer! Our usual Wednesday reading on July 9 will feature Nathan Comstock on the Cantab stage. Both poets are beloved locals with great rising histories at the show, so you can expect a warm crowd and a great mix of old and new hits. Stay cool and we’ll see you there!

Boston Poetry Slam Team Schedule Now Available!

Wondering where to catch the Boston Poetry Slam Team before they head to Nationals in Oakland? No problem! You can grab their schedule on the team’s bio page, or join the Facebook event if you’d like push notifications for all the details. See you around the NorthBEAST!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Well, that was awesome: Brendan Constantine came from the left coast to take over our stage last Wednesday and took us on a wild ride through the possibilities of language. What a great feature! The man has three books and tons of work to share, so even if you saw him this week, you might want to check out his website for his remaining local gigs, including Slam Free or Die and the Dirty Gerund.

The slam was packed with regulars looking ahead to qualify for 2015, all filled with high spirits and hijinks. After three rounds, a great set of poems, one blistering tie, and more than a few close calls, Bobby Crawford took home the win and the ten bucks.

Next week: we’re back with an extended Wednesday feature from Patricia Smith! And, yes, you know that’s going to sell out in a hot second, but we’ve fortunately scheduled a poetry double-header for you that week: you can also head across the river to catch Chloé Cunha at Moonlighting on Thursday.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 18, 2014

So many new folks turned out for the NorthBEAST 4×4 last night at the Cantab! …Well, actually, we think they turned out to get a spot on what was a super-fun and thoughtful open mic, but the room was still packed with excited listeners when slamtime rolled around. The Boston Poetry Slam team was prepped and ready to take on the Providence Poetry Slam from Rhode Island, the Rhythmic Cypher team from Portland, and the far-flung travelers from louderARTS NYC!

The show started strong with a thoughtful and funny three-woman group piece about crying in public from Mikayla Mitchell, Jordan Peterson, and Melissa Lozada-Oliva, followed by a more serious (and chilly!) sacrifice from Zeke Russell. First round highlights included a new cut of some older work from Oz and a carpetbagging Jamie Martin hitting the stage for NYC on a short jaunt down from his Portland feature, putting Boston and NYC neck and neck going into round two.

The second round was a cavalcade of confession, starting with RC’s Generalissimio setting his own house on fire. Muggs Fogarty got the on-page response award for the night from the two-spot in this round with her poem about anxiety and queerdom– her raw score would have been enough to put Providence up over New York, but a big time penalty gave the audience another reason besides great writing to shout and stomp. Brendan Wolff followed up from NYC to remind us that “sanity is a relative concept,” which led into a blistering performance of Melissa Newman-Evans’ Hurricane poem that pulled the home team well into the lead.

The NorthBEAST is rocking several lady-heavy teams for NPS this year, and that was most evident in the third round: three more solo ladies hit the stage for NYC, Portland, and Boston, including Bengal tiger Sophia Garcia from Portland: the judges even started giving up some of their precious 9s by the time Janae Johnson hit the stage with The Art of Being Feminine. The round closed with brand-new group piece from Sabine Quetant and Marshall Gillson from Providence; the audience was excited to see group work, but the judges preferred to wait until everyone was off page to give up the high scores.

Boston opened the fourth round with a new edit of a new off-page poem (new new new!) from Meaghan Ford, sealing the deal on the home team’s victory. LouderARTS was just behind with a portrait of high school from Gabriel Ramirez. Providence continued to shun performance in favor of shiny new ideas with a smoldering astronomy poem from Astrid Drew to garner Rhode Island the third place spot, and then the unmatchable Princess Jones got to close the night for Rhythmic Cypher with a very funny and self-empowering body love poem that was a perfect finish for the audience after a heavy night.

Thanks so much to all the teams who traveled to hang with us, and to our judges: Laurel, Sue, Elaine, Amanda, and Edward & Sarah. Hope to see everyone back at next month’s regional on July 16: that one’s got teams from the Lizard Lounge, Port Veritas, Slam Free or Die, and Urbana NYC!

Meanwhile, of course, we’ve got three other shows between now and then… As always, show up early and stay late for next week’s open mic, open slam, and, in the middle, weird and wonderful headliner Brendan Constantine in town from the left coast.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Holy smokes, Cantab, where did all you late-spring poetry lovers come from? The house sold out in a hot second for Maya Phillips last night, who brought nearly all new-to-us work to the Cantab stage from her fresh chapbook, Welcome Home. After missing Maya on the mic for the two years she’s been in New York City, it’s a savory, rare treat to hear so much of her work again.

(If you missed it, by the way, or found yourself locked out when the open mic sold out by 8:00, you might consider checking out the FAQ on how best to plan to see a show.)

The night’s slam was packed as well, full of eight experienced poets trying out lots of new work! The final round came down to Sophia Holtz and Zeke Russell vying for the $10 prize: Zeke came out on top by just 0.1, but the tight finish earned a huge response from the crowd for both poets.

Upcoming shows: two big slams are going down in the next six days, people! First up is the Nationals-style team slam going down up in Manchester tonight (Thursday, June 12), featuring a wicked four-way grudge match among the poets from Slam Free or Die, Rhythmic Cypher, Lizard Lounge, and our very own Boston Poetry Slam team; there’s plenty of room up at Milly’s and you’re invited to check out the show! Then, next Wednesday, we’ll host our own 4×4 NorthBEAST Regional where the home team takes on Providence, Rhythmic Cypher, and louderARTS-NYC– that one’s a $5 cover to help get our team to the National Poetry Slam in August, so save your quarters and gear up for a big night. See you soon!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Good stuff at the Cantab last night, folks: a late-spring packed house, a way-full open mic and slam, and a really solid feature by William Evans made for a pretty super night. Will took the stage a bit behind schedule and then apparently stopped time with a series of poems drawn straight from his contracted-but-not-yet-published manuscript forthcoming from Penmanship Books; his distinct voice and carefully crafted work led us down and back rows of Midwestern cornfields and generations of American history, ending with a sweet and very funny account of the poet’s own progeny. Excellent show!

Our slam was packed from the beginning of the night with some old favorites and some new-to-the-show competitors; also of note was our top-rank sacrificial poet, Omar Holmon, in town visiting from his home slam of Urbana in New York. Ethan Smith achieved the final round in his first Cantab slam despite bringing page to the stage every round; Ethan was eliminated at last, however, by Marshall Gillson, rising in intensity with new performances of the poems that earned him a spot on this year’s Providence slam team.

Marshall will be back with his team, as well as teams from louderARTS and Rhythmic Cypher, to take on the hometown heroes in a 4×4 slam a couple of weeks from now. Between now and then, however, you’ll get to enjoy a very rare feature from 2011 BPS team member and one-time Emerson captain Maya Phillips, visiting from NYC especially for us. See you there!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wow, we have got some talented slammers at the Cantab, folks. Did you hear? Eight poets competed last night for the honor of representing the Boston Poetry Slam at this year’s Individual World Poetry Slam, scheduled for October in Phoenix, Arizona. At the end, only one poet was left standing: congratulations to Sean Patrick Mulroy, longtime Cantab regular and first-timer as an IWPS rep for the venue!

Sean Patrick Muloy, the Boston Poetry Slam's 2014 World Qualifier winner and representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Sean Patrick Muloy, the Boston Poetry Slam’s 2014 World Qualifier winner and representative at the Individual World Poetry Slam. Photo by Marshall Goff.

After a four-round slam, the final rankings among our hard-fighting finalists were as follows:
1. Sean Patrick Mulroy
2. Meaghan Ford
3. Zeke Russell
4. Mckendy Fils-Aimé
5. Allison Truj
6. Princess Chan
7. Bobby Crawford
8. Janae Johnson

As you can see, it was a wild slam from the very start of the show! Our first eight-poet round kicked off with two sacrifices from Marshall Gillson and Nora Meiners– Nora, in particular, proved herself a crowd favorite, earning a score from the second sacrifice spot that would have easily carried her into the second round of the slam. There were lots of highlights in a highly competitive first round, including Truj’s “Open Letter to the Guy I Hooked Up with Last Night” kicking in the door with a strong performance, followed by Zeke’s harrowing, now-classic poem about how “even the silence shuts up.” The first-round winner by a long shot, though, was Mckendy with his newest work for slam, “Whistling Vivaldi,” which earned what would be the highest score until the final round! The two heartbreaking eliminations, of course, were Janae Johnson and Bobby Crawford– that’s the top scorer for this year’s Boston Poetry Slam Team and last year’s BPS IWPS rep, respectively– who, in a notable but statistically uninteresting coincidence, both performed pieces on the subject of standardized tests.

Round two opened up with Sean Patrick Mulroy in the unenviable position of following himself; having fared well with a serious piece to close the first round, Sean went all-out funny to earn a score high enough to tie for third in this round. Mckendy, Zeke, and Meaghan also advanced with Meaghan in the top spot after offering a Public Service Announcement About Your Genitals, and all four poets were only 0.2 apart at the end of the round. Left behind were Princess Chan, whose quiet family poem did not hit as hard with the judges as her first-round choice, and Truj with a new piece on page.

Although the judges were not advised of any changes for round three, all the advancing poets knew they’d have a full four minutes to perform in this long-form round. Zeke was the only one to take advantage of the extended time limit with a newer four-part poem, while Mckendy stayed under two minutes with a classic hard-hitting favorite. However, it was the two poets sticking to their already-polished three-minute work who advanced: Sean with a tightly wound form poem and Meaghan with the first love poem of the night.

That meant the final round came down to 2014 BPS teammates Meaghan and Sean! Given how close their finish was back at the team finals, this looked like it would be shaping up to a photo finish. Meaghan had saved some solid ammo for this final round and poured out a performance of Match Heads good enough to tie her own score from the previous round (third-highest in the slam so far). In a bold move, Sean chose to counter adolescent darkness with… Ke$ha! The judges rewarded him with the stop score of the night, officially making him our eleventh representative for the annual Individual World Poetry Slam.

Congratulations to Sean, and thanks to Marshall Goff for coming to shoot a few photos for us last night! Looking forward to sharing them with you all soon…

In the meantime, we’ve got some killer poetry shows going on in the next six days. First, the Boston Poetry Slam will be making a visit to the Attleboro for our annual Arts Museum Slam this Friday, May 30! The Museum offers ca$h prizes for both youth and adult slam winners, and it just so happens that Sean will be co-featuring there with Moonlighting co-host Emily Carroll.

Moonlighting, as you’ll recall, happens on the first Thursday of each month in Jamaica Plain, which means the next one will be seven days from this writing on June 5: the feature will be Charlie Bondhus, thoughtful and award-winning poet.

Those north of the city of Boston will of course know that we’ll be back at the Cantab next Wednesday, as always. Our June 4 feature will be Columbus treasure William Evans, followed by an open poetry slam. Hope to see you there!

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