Cantab Feature for Wednesday, August 24, 2016: Taylor Steele

Brooklyn/Bronx poet Taylor Steele. Photo by Ashley August.

Brooklyn/Bronx poet Taylor Steele. Photo by Ashley August.

Taylor Steele is a Brooklyn-based/Bronx-born spoken word artist, playwright, and essayist. She has been published by several online publications (Apogee Journal, HEArt Journal, Wicked Banshee Press, Blackberry Magazine, Rogue Agent, and many forthcoming), and is a content writer for The Body is Not an Apology. Taylor’s work has been featured on Button Poetry, The Huffington Post, and her chapbook Dirty.Mouth.Kiss will be published in Fall 2016 by Pizza Pi Press. She placed fifth in the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam and sixth in 2016. She believes in the power of art to change, shape, and heal.

This show in our weekly Wednesday series takes place at the Cantab Lounge, 738 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge. Doors for the show open at 7:15. The open mic begins at 8:00 and the feature performs at approximately 10:00. An open poetry slam in the 8×8 series will follow. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $3.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A sweet and super night at the Cantab last night, folks: give it up in your hearts right now for Valerie Loveland, who brought her latest books to a jam-packed poetry feature on our basement stage last night. The open mic played host to a number of newcomers, all promising to stay as long as the departing regulars we lost to the beginning of the new semester this week. It was a great night to listen closely and well.

Tom Slavin hosted a packed slam to close the evening, featuring a number of exciting upsets and one blistering tie: Spencer Burchill survived a semi-final poem-off only to fall to Ron in the final round. Ron gets a slam win under his belt and an invite to return to our champs slam in the future! His opponents in that slam are TBD, of course: if you want to get in on it, you’ll need to sign up for next week’s slam when you arrive to see two-time WOWPS finalist Taylor Steele feature for us. Time to get writing!

Tips from the Bar: Back to School Triple-Header

Prompt #1: write about how being lazy once saved you.

Prompt #2: write about an unfinished newsworthy event; the story before the story.

Special extra bonus prompt #3 from April Penn: explain your gender identity. Be creative. Be precise.

Cantab Feature for August 17, 2016: Valerie Loveland

Female Animal author Valerie Loveland.

Female Animal author Valerie Loveland.

Valerie Loveland is the author of Mandible Maxilla, Female Animal, and Reanimated Somehow. Her poetry has been featured in Dzanc Book’s Best of the Web and the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. She enjoys celebrity cat fandom, silent movies, and audio poetry. She is currently a Math/Computer Science student and an optician in Boston.

This show in our weekly Wednesday series takes place at the Cantab Lounge, 738 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge. Doors for the show open at 7:15. The open mic begins at 8:00 and the feature performs at approximately 10:00. An open poetry slam in the 8×8 series will follow. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $3.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WELL DANG. We’ve been (figuratively) holding our breath since March for the promised re-booking of Timothy DuWhite, and he finally made it out to the Cantab for our post-Nationals celebration last night… It was worth the wait! An engaging and risk-taking performer, Tim broke out clever, well-crafted, and thought-provoking work to start and didn’t let up for the rest of the show; from glimpses of his maybe-epic mouse poem to sweet real-love moments on stage, the poet took great care of the audience while pushing the writers listening to try and be more. Thanks for getting us on the calendar, Tim!

After the feature, six poets slammed off, looking to wrest the title from our reigning Champion of Champions, Mckendy Fils-Aimé. Three rounds of intense work followed, with Jess Riz taking the 8×8 victory over Adam Stone (who gets an honorable mention for bringing an all-new set to the slam). Basking in her season championship for only a few moments, Jess elected to challenge the one-year reign of Mckendy… And won the title in the new-poem round! Congrats to Jess, high-fives to Mckendy, and a reminder to all of y’all that the next eight open slams can qualify any of you for the 2017 Boston Poetry Slam Team, the 2017 World Qualifier, and, yes, the October 19 Champion of Champions Slam.

Next week: we are elated to return to the stage with that aforementioned open slam, as well as beloved local and one-spot-mainstay Valerie Loveland in the feature slot.

Tips from the Bar: August in Boston

Writing prompt for Wednesday, August 10, 2016.

Writing prompt for Wednesday, August 10, 2016.

All your friends are leaving, and local universities are back in session. Write a poem about moving on, or not moving on, or failing to move on.

Cantab Feature for Wednesday, August 10, 2016: Timothy DuWhite and the Champion of Champions Poetry Slam

NYC artist Timothy DuWhite.

NYC artist Timothy DuWhite.

The Boston Poetry Slam is pleased to finally present our featured poet rescheduled from March 9, 2016(!)…

Through mistakes, short-comings, and failures Timothy DuWhite has been able to fashion himself a body of work that speaks directly to the value of transparency as well as self-accountability. Timothy has dedicated his journey of both artist-hood as well as person-hood to the preservation of stories, all of our stories, and all of the purpose they bare. As a Spoken Word artist Timothy enlists his audience members in narratives spanning from: the pain of love, the insurmountable teeth of joy, the importance of forgiveness, the realities of living with a disease, the struggles of a man of color, the struggles of a queer man, the interconnections of the human experience, and every bit of beauty that can be found in the small and seemingly insignificant. Timothy’s work has been featured at the United Nations, Apollo Theater, San Diego State University, Nuyorican Poet’s cafe, as well as many other places. Timothy believes that by sharing our individual experiences and maintaining a dialogue of honesty amongst ourselves we can better navigate this behemoth we call life.

Tonight also marks the final night in our current 8×8 poetry slam series! Eight slam winners will slam off for the season championship and the opportunity to challenge the reigning Champion of Champions, Mckendy Fils-Aimé.

This show in our weekly Wednesday series takes place at the Cantab Lounge, 738 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge. Doors for the show open at 7:15. The open mic begins at 8:00 and the feature performs at approximately 10:00. The Champions of Champions Slam in the 8×8 speed slam series will follow. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $3.

Final Update from the 2016 National Poetry Slam

It’s Saturday at the National Poetry Slam, Cantabbers, and the NPS 2016 slam team is taking a much-deserved rest after a blisteringly hot bout semi-finals bout last night; the BPS took fifth to a strong field including Houston VIP, Bull City Slam, Brooklyn Slam, and the Finals-bound House Slam.

The team went into semis feeling strong and excited to see huge turnout from all our NorthBEAST friends: Mill City Slam, Slam Free or Die, Providence Poetry Slam, the Lizard Lounge, and even the Group-Piece-Finals-bound Northampton Poetry Slam were all out in force to support the two 617 teams in the house. After a scramble for properly objective judges, the slam opened up with a three-poet, three-part group piece sacrifice making metaphor of a magic act by DC’s Busboys and Poets team. Your BPS team was holding the A, which meant Neiel Israel kicked in the door with a mic-knocking rendition of The Dick for a respectable judge-load of nines. Bull City and VIP followed in similar suit, but when House’s Ashley Davis and Oomp Will pulled a high 29 for their Simon Says group piece, then were outdone by 0.2 by Brooklyn’s Falu and Steven Willis taking the room to church, it looked like math would not be on the early teams’ side.

The high-to-low second round opened with Brooklyn following themselves; they chose a lighter group piece with Steven and McPherson, offering Batman a chance to become the Black Panther’s sidekick and scooping up another high 29. Sam Rush took the stage next to conjugate the word “girl” and squeaked in just barely under 3:10, making up the 0.2 difference and leaving both top teams tied. Scores took a dive just after with three more group pieces from Bull City, VIP, and Cantab, with your home team putting bartender Bobby Crawford and Simone Beaubien on the stage for a group piece. With all three teams a full three points behind and the judges with very little room to move up, it was looking like a good night to break out some poems for the room rather than the scores.

Meanwhile, in what was virtually shaping up to be an entirely different bout, House Slam opened the first round with Oomp’s Black Hole poem from the Grudge Match (remember that?!), a welcome solo performance in a group-piece heavy room, for the highest score of the night yet. Not to be outdone, Brooklyn played Paul Tran and McPherson with the Peacock Spider poem you may have seen at the House Slam regional this year, earning the first 30.0 of the night and putting House 0.2 behind in a very tight competition. VIP had the three-spot and brought up Jordan Simpson, who honored the space with an incredible solo piece that left the room and judges breathless, good enough to tie Oomp’s high solo score. Bull City followed with a complex two-voice piece (including recent Harvard fellow and Cantab visitor Dasan Ahanu) on birds –Jim Crow, that is. Closing out the round, Cantab send up Mckendy Fils-Aimé to perform Via Negativa in his first semi-finals appearance since 2013.

With one round left and tens raining down like the afternoon thunderstorms here in Decatur, poets and audience girded their metaphors for just five more poems. Brooklyn sent their first solo poet of the night, Crystal Valentine, to the stage, who earned a 29.8 for a missive to Rachel Dolezal and left House needing a perfect 30 to earn a tie. Second up, though was VIP, having earned an early spot in the round with their big solo, and their poem was a resonant callback to the “prestige” referenced in the sacrifice poem: strong group choreography earned them a high twenty-nine and a well-deserved round of closing applause. House selected Marshall Gillson and Ashley to return to the stage for their poem on depression and the question of child-bearing, with the temperature rising the room around their flawless performance… Flawless indeed, as the judges rewarded it with the perfect 30 that House was looking for, earning them a spot in a tiebreaker! Mathed out but still full of love for the room, Bull City honored another solo poet, Ishine, with a chance on the mic, and the judges responded with another 30.

What’s a Cantab team to do when hopelessly mathed out in an overheated room full of trauma, death, and impossibly high suspense for an impending tiebreaker? Oh, you must know: a five-person, high-energy, irrepressibly goofy group piece written by none other than Zeke Russell was just the thing to reset the space. We are sorry you were not there, Cantab, to watch a library auditorium packed to the gills and screaming HIGH SCHOOL IS BULLSHIT! HIGH SCHOOL IS BULLSHIT! HIGH SCHOOL IS BULLSHIT! with utmost glee. Get free indeed, poets: the final score might(?) have been a 27.1 after a solid 2.5 point time penalty, one we hope stands as the high-water mark for all teams to come.

But wait, you asked, wasn’t there a tie? There was indeed: after wiping the tears and sweat from our faces, the audience settled down to watch the coin flip: Brooklyn chose the 2-spot, which meant masterful coach Porsha Olayiwola sent Ashley Davis to the stage with a poem about her grandmother and where black women find home. Brooklyn’s Mo Browne also selected a solo poet for the tiebreaker, sending Paul Tran back to the stage with a heart-wrenching personal story. The last moments of suspense gave way to riotous NorthBEAST celebration as the host read judge preferences for House… House… House [ROOMSPLOSION!], House and Brooklyn! The 2015 champs earned a 4-1 ride to Finals on Saturday night as the room cheered themselves hoarse.

Cantabbers, it’s been a great show for us at NPS, and we’re proud to say we’ve finished in the top 20 teams for you this year. Please join us in offering congratulations to the House Slam on a second trip to Finals, and to the Northampton Poetry Slam, who skyrocketed to a fourth-place finish at the Group Piece Finals later that night. What a year! We’ll be home to see you (and Wednesday’s feature Timothy DuWhite, who shook your SlamMaster’s hand not twenty minutes ago) in just a few short days.

Postcard from Friday at the 2016 National Poetry Slam

The 2016 Boston Poetry Slam team is inordinately pleased to announce that we are ranked 12th in the nation after two nights of poetry, qualifying us for semi-finals! The BPS took the win last night in a room at Decatur City Hall over BamaSlam from Montevallo and our two NorthBEAST allies from Mill City and Providence. You can follow along with the semi-final scores here.

Bout sheet for bout #30, Thursday, August 4, 2016, at the National Poetry Slam.

Bout sheet for bout #30, Thursday, August 4, 2016, at the National Poetry Slam.

Four teams entered the Commission Meeting room at the City Hall last night, all looking for a win: Mill City and BamaSlam had both ranked 3 on Tuesday and were hoping for a long shot at semi-finals, with Providence and the BPS both sitting on 2s and needing a win to earn the chance to keep playing on Friday. A mad-efficient bout management and hosting team had us starting our bout at 7:01 p.m. and we were off with a totally creepy-funny sacrifice poem (“lumbersexual”) by Stephen Meads.

The first round kicked off with a Providence group piece from Vatic Kuumba and Justice Gaines, making intense wordplay with the term “free” for just a mid-range score from the judges. BamaSlam sent solo poet Michael Harriot up next, whose tightly woven solo poem about his mother’s darkness pulled the scores up an extra point and a half; Mckendy Fils-Aimé followed with a big performance of Vivaldi, which the judges put on precisely equal footing with Providence’s score. Mill City closed out with a strong opening effort from Shampy, putting them less than a point behind the BPS and PVD.

Round two was Boston’s chance to open, and Zeke Russell was the guy to do it: Zeke started Recovery up close to the mic, then was the first poet of the night to forgo amplification entirely in the small, high-ceilinged room, earning a good score bump for his efforts. Providence brought Vatic back to the stage for a solo piece (familiar to those who came to their regional at the Cantab this July), and Mill City sent Nate Leland to the stage, then to stand on a chair, for his famed garage band poem. The round finished with a solo love poem from BamaSlam, with no poet catching up with the judge love that Zeke had already earned, and giving the Cantab a tiny 0.2 lead over Bama and 0.9 over Providence.

Mill City dug deep with a brand new group piece in Ricky Ormg’s spot to open round three, earning a respectably high score. Cantab made the choice to bring up the first poem featuring only women on the stage with Neiel Israel and Simone performing Brotherhood, which bounced the Cantab ahead to the lead. Jerry Hardesty followed with a classic solo piece, then Providence closed the round with a three-poet group piece on the “sick” brain featuring Justice, Chrysanthemum Tran, and Sheena Faisal, finally getting the judges to give up some nine’s and earning the high score of the night so far. The third round finished with Cantab just 0.1 ahead of Providence, and the other two teams about two points back.

For the two 2s in the bout, it all came down to the final round. With BamaSlam opening from the tough B spot and Mill City out of the running but performing strong, it’d be Providence first, Cantab second. Providence chose their “survive” group piece with Justice and Chrysanthemum, which earned the high score of the night and left Cantab needing the capper. Fortunately, Neiel Israel was up to the task: taking the stage, she topped all the scores of the night with a blazing off-mic performance of “Afro,” bringing the win –and the qualification for semis– home for the BPS.

In subsequent news: House finished with a strong 1 over Slam Free or Die in a later bout, then Northampton qualified for Group Piece Finals in a wild bout where they ranked their highest yet at NPS (congrats, Noho!). The BPS team bouts tonight, versus House Slam (you heard that right), Brooklyn, Bull City, and Houston VIP in a barnburner of a semi-final bout. Wish you were here, Cantab!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Did you catch jeff taylor at the Cantab last night? For your sake, we hope so: this long-time open mic-er put together a full set for an enthusiastic crowd last night, showcasing much of his best-loved work: smart, funny, wry, self-deprecating, and utmostly human, jeff had the crowd laughing and applauding right through the night. The final slam in the 8×8 was won by bartender Adam Stone, who took the ten-dollar victory right out of John Pinkham’s hands; expect to see Adam and seven other all-stars challenge Mckendy Fils-Aimé next week.

That’s right: next week is feature Timothy DuWhite and the Champion of Champions slam! The winners of the last eight open slams are all invited back to slam again for the venue’s top honor. Come see what poets spring and summer have brought to the slam.

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