Meet the 2012 Boston Poetry Slam Team

Congratulations to the 2012 Boston Poetry Slam Team: Kemi Alabi, Antonia Lassar, Omoizele Okoawo, Mckendy Fils-Aimé, and Melissa Newman-Evans!

The team was finalized on Wednesday, April 25, after a three-night, seven poem series, and they’ll represent the Boston Poetry Slam at the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, North Carolina from August 7-11.

The full details about what happened at team selection are forthcoming in our weekly recap… In the meantime, aren’t you wondering what the National Poetry Slam is all about? You can check out this year’s website at, where there are already tickets available to see our team and more than 70 others compete at the week-long event!

Tips from the Bar: the Tom Lehrer Prompt

Produce a poem with too many adverbs. Alternatively: make up your own adverb.

Feature for April 25, 2012: Team Selection Finals

Boston Poetry Slam

It’s the last night of the Team Selection Slams, and it’s sure to be the most exciting; the top nine poets from Semi-Finals will slam off in three wicked rounds to see who will represent the Boston Poetry Slam at this year’s national competition! Appearing in this order in the first round:

1. Ed Wilkinson
2. Sophia Holtz
3. Simone Beaubien
4. Mckendy Fils-Aimé
5. Antonia Lassar
6. Omoizele Okoawo
7. Melissa Newman-Evans
8. Kemi Alabi
9. Maya Philips
Sacrifice poets: Meaghan Ford and TBA

The five highest scorers at the end of the night will travel to the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, North Carolina, this August, to compete against more than seventy other teams from the U.S. and Canada.

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.

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

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).