The new slam season has begun, folks, and with it, eight baller new sestinas hit the stage last night at the Cantab! Our first theme slam of the season asked poets to bring a sestina, a sonnet, and an ode to our classic 8×8 format, and audience members were surprised, delighted, and perhaps even formally inspired by the fabulous and more-than-gently restricted work last night’s poets performed.
It is difficult, although not impossible, to successfully slam a sestina– but that didn’t stop our first round of slammers from taking this complex six-stanzas-plus form to the field of battle. After a quick sonnet sacrifice from Jonah Comstock, Sophia Holtz took the stage with an intense and seasonal sonnet with a view of the Twin Towers: Nathan Comstock met her on Gotham territory with a persona poem from one Robin to another, but despite similarly enthusiastic audience response, Nathan’s score did not hold up, advancing Sophia to the next round. Lip Manegio and Kieran Collier faced off in the second pairing, with Lip bringing a nuanced poem in a father’s voice to the stage, and Kieran putting forth a sexily conflicted sestina set in the gym; Kieran took this round, setting him up against Sophia in the sonnet head-to-head. On the back half of the pairing, George Abraham elicited gasps from the audience with a daring erasure to produce his form’s final tercet (THAT’S RIGHT, SESTINAS ARE DARING), but the score couldn’t hold up to Myles Taylor accelerating into an on-brand Poetry Magazine call-out. The final pairing of the sestina round was a host-vs-host affair, with Cassandra de Alba taking on the complex persona of English convict Mary Bell and Zeke digging deep for a journey into sobriety: Cassandra took the round to head to the second round against Myles.
The second round showed off four sonnets of varying form and modernity from the semi-final poets. Sophia opened with a classic Shakespearean form questioning the country’s greatness through the lens of WWII to today; this was narrowly defeated by Kieran with a grief sonnet in the same form. The other side of the bracket was also a tight pairing, starting with a more modern sonnet with ode pretensions on the subject of Myles’ humble mole; subsequent raucous crowd response for Cassandra’s “Three Sonnets with Room for a Ghost” was not reflected in the score, sending Myles to the final round for an all-Emerson College Ode Battle. Kieran opened the final with a sweet body-positive ode combining themes from his first two poems, while Myles clapped back with a brash ode to the latest decor (have you heard? it’s very loud, surely you have heard) of the Cantab Lounge. When the Ode Dust cleared, Kieran was left standing with the highest score, and a cool $25 in one hand. Congrats to Myles for achieving a tie for most poems read in the slam; we’re happy to give our runner-up free admission to the show next week!
Oh, and next week? We’re only having TWO features instead of one: Julia Gaskill and Stephen Meads are on the road from Portland, Oregon, with poems about dogs and lumberjacks and being in a body to perform for you. It’s our usual open mic that Wednesday, but if you’re looking for a slam, mark your calendars for our next competition: it’ll be all ghost stories at the upcoming slam on October 31.