We’re Slamming at the Mass Poetry Festival!

Massachusetts Poetry Festival -- April 20-22, 2012 in Salem, Mass.

Massachusetts Poetry Festival -- April 20-22, 2012 in Salem, Mass.

The Boston Poetry Slam has been invited to the fourth annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival! The three-day Festival kicks off on Friday, April 20 and continues through Sunday, April 22. We’ll be right in the thick of it with two shows, both hosted by Boston Poetry SlamMaster Simone Beaubien.

Youth Slam at the Old Town Hall
1:30 sign-up, 1:45 slam
32 Derby Sq., Salem, MA

To accommodate a little schedule change (among the hundreds of shows at the Festival!) the Youth Poetry Slam will now kick off at 1:45 on Saturday, April 21, with sign-ups beginning at 1:30 in the Old Town Hall at 32 Derby Street. Poets between the ages of 13 and 19 years are invited to try their hand at the two-round competition! Prospective competitors will need two poems to perform, recite, or simply read off page for scores, whistles, and supportive snaps.

All-Star Demo Slam at Victoria Station
9:30 until 11:00
Pickering Wharf, 86 Wharf St., Salem, MA

The Boston Poetry Slam @ the Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be pumping up the crowd at Victoria Station on Pickering Wharf, 86 Wharf Street. This rambunctious event will feature eight all-stars selected from the slam community at large: local fans of performance poetry will recognize National Finalist Omoizele Okoawo, renowned playwright and performer April Ranger, hip-hop artist and freestyler Marlon Carey, Lizard Lounge slam champ Cole Rodriguez, Emerson College SlamMaster Maya Phillips, Worcester slam favorite Brandi MacDonald, California slam champ Christian Drake, and famed Cantab Lounge bartender Adam Stone. This is the most amazing line-up you’ll see this side of the National Poetry Slam— and all the poets will be in tip-top performance shape for the heart of National Poetry Month.

Want more info? Check out our Boston Poetry Slam Presents event page, or visit the official official 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival website.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, April 18, 2012

This past Wednesday, our marathon three-night, seven-round slam team selection process continued with the Team Selection Semi-Finals. The twelve poets who survived the Preliminaries were invited back for two more poems, hosted by ringmaster/special guest Erin Jackson. When the dust cleared, the results were like so:

Maya Phillips shakes up the slam with The Things I Don't Say About Race. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Maya Phillips shakes up the slam with The Things I Don't Say About Race. Photo by Marshall Goff.

1. Maya Philips 57.5
2. Kemi Alabi 57.4
3. Melissa Newman-Evans 56.3
4. Omoizele Okoawo 55.5
5. Antonia Lassar 55.3
6. Mckendy Fils-Aimé 54.8
7. Christian Drake 54.6
8. Simone Beaubien 54.6
9. Sophia Holtz 54.3

10. Sam Teitel
11. Ed Wilkinson
12. Meaghan Ford

Poets in bold have qualified to advance to the Finals next Wednesday, April 25. Christian Drake has regretfully decided to step down, so the ninth spot will be filled by Ed Wilkinson (Sam Teitel has elected to commit to the Manchester Slam Team for 2012).

Wednesday’s slam started off with a double-barreled bang, as Sam Teitel kicked in the door with an open letter to New York City in the voice of the city of Boston, followed by Meaghan Ford’s Medusa Weeds Her Rock Garden. The two persona poems in a row were a prelude to the theme of night, during which seven of the twelve performers would give voice to at least one fictionalized character. The next poet, Ed Wilkinson, started another trend with the snarky Toast: A Political Poem, being one of five poets to take to the stage that night with paper (or iPad) in hand. All the performers seemed effectively tied in the judges’ minds until Sophia Holtz, speaking in the voice of a hundred-year-old disaster, riveted the crowd with her quietly intense performance and pulled the scores up by nearly a full point to set the rest of the show off and running.

Mckendy Fils-Aimé goes off mic to shoot a few hoops. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Mckendy Fils-Aimé goes off mic to shoot a few hoops. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Countering the intensity in the room with one part erotica, one part humor, and one part persona (we hope) proved successful for Melissa Newman-Evans, who broke the 28 barrier from the fifth spot in the show. Mckendy Fils-Aimé aimed high by being the first poet to risk going off-mic, although his basketball poem was not as well-rewarded as it had been in the World Qualifiers back in January. A revamped performance of The Decent Ones by Omoizele Okoawo followed, scoring high enough for the middle of the pack.

Next up was Maya Phillips, who blew up the scores by saying the things she doesn’t say, seemingly unhindered by reading the poem quietly from behind the mic. Antonia Lassar followed with the wild emotional ride of anger, tenderness, humor, and intense focus she’s become known for, as did Christian Drake with a heartfelt and heartbreaking list poem, but both found themselves struggling against time penalties. Simone Beaubien slipped in between the two with a low-scoring work poem that would turn out to be one of the night’s few pieces of personal narrative. Closing out the round was Kemi Alabi, whose advice from the B Line (produced for last summer’s MBTA slam) topped out over Maya by 0.2 for the highest score of the night.

Sam Teitel works the room in his second-round poem. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Sam Teitel works the room in his second-round poem. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Facing an even earlier draw in the second round than in the first didn’t faze Meaghan, who brought a brand-new piece to the stage from the one-spot. She was followed by an on-page Kemi, who charmed the judges once more and secured her spot in the Finals early. Melissa switched gears to bring the weird with a witchy hex story, which was enough to lock her into Finals as well. The six-oh-threesome of Mckendy, Ed, and Sam followed, with Sam bravely working the whole room in a classic Cantab walk reminiscent of a certain sixty-something SlamMaster with a ponytail. Sam’s successful performance was unfortunately stymied by the biggest time penalty of the night, resulting in a(nother) round of boos for New York City.

Antonia came to the stage next, electing to set her feet behind the mic and praise the possibilities of anger. A big score locked her in as well and left the next five poets to sweat! Sophia and Christian both squeaked into Finals after time penalties (which may have been the third theme of the night), Sophia with an intense treatise on assault and Christian with a call to rejoice in the malleability of memories. Simone and Oz each followed with a little taste of sex; Simone brought paper to the stage on the subject of the delicious fig and Oz countered with the surprisingly short and sensual Her Mouth.

Capping out the slam was Maya, who came to the stage in the guise of George Wallace and put the slam away with the high score of the round, just enough to defeat Kemi by 0.1 for the top spot in the show. What a night!

We’ll be back next week for the Team Selection Finals, where the top nine poets will go three rounds to determine the five-person 2012 team! Phew, that was a lot of numbers… Let’s have some pictures instead. While you’re waiting for next week, please enjoy this gallery of photos from Marshall Goff:

Tips from the Bar: Brian S. Ellis Prompts Patrick S.

Write about the seventh gender.

Feature for April 18, 2012: Team Selection Semi-Finals

Boston Poetry Slam

Coming right on the heels of a feature from one of the greatest slam champs of the modern era, the Boston Poetry Slam @ the Cantab Lounge will take another shot at narrowing the field for the National Poetry Slam. The top dozen poets from the April 4 Team Selection Preliminaries will enter the second of three nights designed to build the best possible slam team from the all-stars the venue has to offer. After two rounds of serious semi-final fun, the top poets will advance to the April 25 Team Selection Finals.

Special guest Erin Jackson will host tonight’s slam! This coach, competitor, and 2007 National Poetry Slam Individual Finalist from Worcester has enough slam cred under her belt to keep both the wily slam veterans and the cocky rookies in line. And with only three poets to eliminate tonight, you can expect some wild strategic risks from all the poets hoping to save enough poetic ammunition to survive the Finals.

Qualified to slam in Semi-Finals (first round will run in this order):
12. Sam Teitel
11. Meaghan Ford
10. Ed Wilkinson
9. Sophia Holtz
8. Melissa Newman-Evans
7. Mckendy Fils-Aimé
6. Omoizele Okoawo
5. Maya Phillips
4. Antonia Lassar
3. Simone Beaubien
2. Christian Drake
1. Kemi Alabi
Sacrificial poet: Matthew Richards.

Wondering where our third-place winner from last week’s slam went? Well, it turns out that Bobby Crawford will drop out to compete at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational that week. Good luck to Bobby and the whole Emerson College team at CUPSI!

Doors for the show open at 7:15. A shortened open mic begins at 8:00 and the slam begins at approximately 9:30. An open poetry slam in the 8×8 series will follow. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $5; proceeds will go toward sending the team to the National Poetry Slam this August.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Our jam-packed no-slam Wednesday started off early this week with a special workshop from Karrie Waarala. If you missed it, you also missed out on your chance to put together a new persona poem, complete with incisive discussion on the popularity of the trend! Get ready to hear some of the work generated there on the open mic in upcoming weeks… And we hope to have Karrie back soon for a full feature, too.

As awesome as Karrie is, we knew the house was packed last night for our scheduled headliner, though: Write Bloody author Anis Mojgani. With no slam afterwards to hold the show back, Anis brought us a special extended set for a room that was super-excited to hear his every word. Still didn’t get enough? You can catch him again at Boston University this Saturday night!

Next week: it’s back to business with the Team Selection Semi-Finals. The top twelve poets from the prelims will slam off in two rounds to see who goes to the Finals in two weeks! Check the link the show itself to see who’s in and who’s out –and start placing your beer bets now on who will comprise the 2012 Boston Poetry Slam Team. Keep in mind that our show tonight will again be a $5 cover with a shortened open mic; we’ll return to our usual marathon open mic (and 8×8 open slam) on May 2.

Tips from the Bar: Hi, Mom!

We know you can’t read any of your poems in front of your parents. Now write the poem you could never read to them.

Workshop for April 11, 2012: “Mirror, not Movie Screen” with Karrie Waarala

Karrie Waarala, Stonecoast MFA and long-time performance poet.

Karrie Waarala, Stonecoast MFA and long-time performance poet.

Special one-night only workshop! Karrie Waarala will offer an early-bird workshop at the Cantab Lounge before Anis Mojgani‘s feature. All comers (yup, even drop-ins) are welcome to swing by.

Mirror, Not Movie Screen: Getting Personal Through Persona
Persona poetry is often painted with the broadest of brushes: the villain makes his case for really being a good guy, the voiceless are granted voices, a fairy tale is retold. Again. However, an often overlooked aspect of persona is the opportunity to use familiar characters or archetypes to reveal more about not just human nature, but the human sitting at the keyboard or holding the pen. We’ll discuss some of the untapped potential of persona, examine poems that reflect more than just the character doing the speaking, and use the mask of persona to strip off the masks in our own writing.

Workshop leader Karrie Waarala holds an MFA from the Stonecoast program at University of Southern Maine and is a teaching artist at The Rooster Moans poetry cooperative. Her work has appeared in journals such as Iron Horse Literary Review, PANK, The Collagist, Arsenic Lobster, and Radius; two national poetry slam anthologies; and on a coffee shop floor in Arizona. A member of the national poetry slam community since 2000, Karrie has recently channeled her performance energy into writing, producing and performing a one-woman show. LONG GONE: A Poetry Sideshow, which is based on Karrie’s full-length collection of circus poems, debuted last year to critical acclaim. She really wishes she could tame tigers and swallow swords. Visit her at www.poetrysideshow.com.

Doors open at 5:30 for attendees, and the workshop runs from 6:00 to 7:00. Cover charge is $5, which includes admission to the evening show. The venue is 18+ (ID required).

Feature for April 11, 2012: Anis Mojgani

Anis Mojgani. Photo by Jeremy Okai Davis.

Anis Mojgani. Photo by Jeremy Okai Davis.

Anis Mojgani is a two time National Poetry Slam Champion and winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam (Bobigny, France). A National Book Award Nominee and former resident of the Oregon Literary Arts Writers-In-The-Schools program, Anis has performed at numerous universities, festivals, and venues around the globe. He has performed for audiences as varied as the House of Blues and the United Nations, and his work has appeared on HBO, NPR, and in the pages of such journals as Rattle, Bestiary, and The Legendary. A founding member of the touring Poetry Revival, Anis is also the author of two poetry collections, both published by Write Bloody Publishing: Over the Anvil We Stretch (2008) and The Feather Room (2011). Originally from New Orleans, he currently lives on the east side of Austin TX in a tiny house with his wife.

Doors for the show open at 7:15. The open mic begins at 8:00 and the feature performs at approximately 10:00. There is no poetry slam tonight. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $3.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oh, no big deal, folks: last week’s show just marked the first Wednesday of National Poetry Month, the time of year when we hold the biggest slam the Cantab’s got… Eighteen poets! Thirty-eight poems! Special guest hosts and viciously consistent judges! Damn, it was a fabulous show, and twelve poets were left standing at the end of the night. Here are the rankings after Team Selection Preliminaries:

Slam host Sean Patrick Mulroy protects the poets from the piercing stares of the judges. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Slam host Sean Patrick Mulroy protects the poets from the piercing stares of the judges. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Carrie Rudzinski brings a new poem to sacrifice for the slam. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Carrie Rudzinski brings a new poem to sacrifice for the slam. Photo by Marshall Goff.

1. Kemi Alabi 55.0
2. Christian Drake 54.0
3. Bobby Crawford 53.8
4. Simone Beaubien 53.4
5. Antonia Lassar 53.1
6. Maya Philips 53.1
7. Omoizele Okoawo 52.8
8. Mckendy Fils-Aimé 52.7
9. Melissa Newman-Evans 52.7
10. Sophia Holtz 52.5
11. Ed Wilkinson 52.2
12. Meaghan Ford 51.8

13. Sam Teitel
14. Kevin Spak
15. Matthew Richards
16. Patrick S.
17. Nate Leland
18. Brian Omni Dillon
DNS: Paulie Lipman, Adam Stone, Sean Patrick Mulroy

Poets in bold are qualified to advance to the Team Selection Semi-Finals on April 18; first round will be ordered low score to high score (ties resolved by reverse of second-round order). We’ve already heard a rumor that one poet will be dropping out to attend CUPSI, so watch this space for updates on the final roster!

Wait, what’s that you say? You had to stay home, write three papers, wash your cat and baby-sit your drunk uncle, so you missed the slam? You’ll be wanting some details about this great night, then…

The show kicked off with an abbreviated open mic hosted by April Ranger and long-lost 2011 team member, Carrie Rudzinski, who swung by on this leg of her tour to help us run the slam! A major highlight was bartender Adam Stone, who elected to drop out of the competition at the last minute, apparently so he could cover one of Carrie’s old poems in the open in an at-first hilarious, then surprisingly heartfelt way. The huge competition started up early (expect the same on April 18, too) with sacrifice poems from Carrie and 1998 Individual Finalist at the National Poetry Slam Brian Commiskey: when Brian turned up with a terrifyingly low score, we knew it was going to be a tough night on the hot side of the microphone.

Kemi Alabi explains the concept of the American Slut. Photo by Marshall Goff.

Kemi Alabi explains the concept of the American Slut. Photo by Marshall Goff.

The poet who draws the one-spot in the first round always comes out with guns blazing, and Kemi Alabi was no exception. Prayer for Occupy tore the room down and pulled a big score out of the judges that would stand as the high-water mark until the middle of the second round. Poets coming hot on her heels made every effort to catch her: of particular note was Ed Wilkinson, who wowed the room with Open Letter to My Heart and was rewarded by judges who didn’t seem to care that he was the only poet performing on page.

First-round strategy made for a wild ride for both audience and poets. Team slam vets Omoizele Okoawo and Simone Beaubien both elected to bring the tried-and-true to their early draws, surprising some old-timers in the audience with poems they hadn’t heard in years; 2011 teammates McKendy Fils-Aimé and Maya Phillips followed suit with poems ten years younger and were similarly rewarded. All four pulled first-round scores that, with consistent judging, turned out to be enough to cement their spots in the semi-finals.

New work for the 2012 season abounded in the early rounds, too: Kevin Spak risked a brand-new poem to combat his two-spot draw in the first round and got great crowd reaction, only to be shot down by a few of the judges. Just about everything that traveling poet Christian Drake brought was going to be new to this audience; his highly animated yet polished performance of For Tatiana was exciting enough to garner the second-highest raw score of the round.

But did it get weird? Of course it got weird, and it was awesome! Sadly, out-of-area-coder Patrick S. elicited a split response with his seasonal Krampus poem later in the show, and judges were similarly disenchanted with the quirky sweetness of Nate Leland’s lobster poem. Late in the round, crowd favorite Melissa Newman-Evans was the first to break the snark barrier with her treatise against those who write love poems; no stranger to snark himself, Sam Teitel countered with Jew-Burty, a poem whose spot-on comic timing and hairy elbows resulted in both big laughs and a big time penalty. Sneaking in between these two was the unstealthy Bobby Crawford, who brought the audience nothing they expected with a sing-along microphone-smashing Brian-Ellis-esque performance of Teenage Wasteland— good enough for second place in the round and the highest single score (9.8) from any of the judges all night.

Kevin Spak goes off mic for "Pirate Love Poem." Photo by Marshall Goff.

Kevin Spak goes off mic for "Pirate Love Poem." Photo by Marshall Goff.

Sean Patrick Mulroy kept the slam moving at top speed into the second round, so poets with early draws were fortunate to be facing the same judges in a still-hot room. Remarkable consistency kept scores pretty low, with only a few more poets able to break the 27 barrier; one of these was Antonia Lassar, who reprised the chatty-yet-sincere tone of her own first-round poem with a more serious poem on the subject of assault that firmly placed her in the top qualifiers for semi-finals.

The biggest risk of the night came from Meaghan Ford, who brought a brand-new, intensely stylized and totally creepy persona poem to the middle of the second round, which split the judges and left her waiting to see how her competitors would fare; it turned out to be enough to snag the last spot in the semi-finals. Also looking to survive was Sophia Holtz, who flipped her tone from the sad and serious Death Speaks to the Dreamer in round one to the gently quirky Walden in round two, enough to place her in semis as well.

As the slam moved to the closing poems, big personality Brian Omni Dillon did his best to play catch-up, but just couldn’t put enough of his charisma into a poem about New York City to sell it to the Cambridge audience. The last poem of the night came from Matthew Richards; all but eliminated, he brought an especially moving and sweet performance of his half-erotica, half-praise poem to finish the night beautifully.

Special thanks to our audience, judges, and super-hard-working staff, without whom none of this fun would have been possible! Join us next week as we take a short break from slam: we’ll welcome Karrie Waarala with an early-bird workshop and Anis Mojgani as our feature.

The semi-finalists will all be back on April 18 to see who will survive to finals. In the meantime, you can enjoy a whole gallery of photos from the show, thanks to artist Marshall Goff.

Tips from the Bar: the Odd Couple

Select an unlikely pair from history, politics, pop culture, science, or art and bring them together in a poem.