Radio Recap for Monday, July 2

Happy birthday, America! At New & Improved, we celebrated it with our first-ever Presidential Smackdown Slam, a head-to-head poetry debate judged by the electoral rabble at the Radio bar. We had a great crowd turn out to see Millard Fillmore, (b)Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Bill Clinton, and a wild cast of founding and foundering politicos. At the end of the night, the Democrats took the evening (surprise), but a soundly educational time was had by all!

Special thanks to Kevin Spak, who produced this event as part of our new themed first-Mondays plan at Radio. We’ll be back in August with more boisterousness with a comedy/poetry showcase!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 27

Check your face, Cantabbers: if it feels a little different, it’s because Danez Smith metaphorically melted it off at last night’s show. This native Minnesotan certainly does not play around on the stage! After a very solid open mic, Danez took the night up another notch with an extremely powerful set that showed off his writing and performance chops and absolutely lit up the room. The slam was a tight one, including a tie in the semi-final round, but the big winner on the night was perennial performer Nora Meiners, who defeated visitor Sean Patrick Mulroy to take the seventh spot in this season’s 8×8 slam series.

Next week: NO SHOW FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY, PEOPLE! We’ll be back on July 11 with a NorthBEAST Regional Poetry Slam: Mill City, Manchester, Jersey City, and the Lizard Lounge will slam off… Cover is $5 that night to help raise money to send the team to the National Poetry Slam.

Tips from the Bar: You Aren’t Invited, But You’re Invited

There is someone in your life (your mother, your ex, your high school teacher) whom you would never invite to a poetry reading. Write a poem to convince them that they should come.

Cantab Feature for Wednesday, June 27, 2012: Danez Smith

Danez Smith of First Wave.

Danez Smith of First Wave.

Danez Smith is a poet, performer, and playwright from St. Paul, MN. A senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a founding member of the First Wave Hip-Hop Theatre Ensemble, he has also been a slam champion of the Minneapolis and Madison Poetry scenes. Danez has established himself as a performer, writer, teacher, and personality in his many worlds, placing 6th at the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam.

A Cave Canem fellow, he is published in PANK, Illumination, Orange Quarterly, and elsewhere. His one-man theatre production “For Those Who Pray In Closets” is receiving critical acclaim and standing ovations wherever it is performed.

Danez has traveled across the country and the globe to Mexico, Panama, Switzerland, and England to perform poetry and theatre. A young artist walking and writing in the footsteps of Balwin and Hughes, Danez seeks to continue to be a voice for hushed choir boys, the walking shadows, the joy, hurt, and journey of the black, queer men. Pulling from his artistic endeavors in music and theatre, his voice on the page sings of his old soul, his experienced youth, his treasured mistakes, and all the things that imagine him human.

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.

Radio recap for Monday, June 25

At the New & Improved reading, we like to say that we are encouraging cross-genre collaboration and thinking, not just between poets, but among all kinds of self-directed performance artists. Last night, our wish came true in a beautiful way as storytellers, poets, prose writers, comedians, and who-knows-who-else congregated around workshop leader Michael Mack. Michael led a fabulous discussion about the ideas and goals of storytelling and the role of the writer and the characters in a piece of performance art. Awesome!

We followed up a successful workshop with a packed open mic; for the first time ever, we had to turn folks away when we filled up the list! Special thanks to Michael Monroe and Jamei Bauer, who did the hard work of hosting and made sure to welcome all our first-timers, even those who might have to wait until next week to get on the list.

Our double-feature was also one to remember. The first set came from April Ranger, who brought a winding and powerful set of all almost-new poems, closing with the debut of a dramatic monologue that was backed by surprise musical guest Jeff Robinson, our friend from the Lizard Lounge poetry slam! Jeff’s saxophone strung together April’s words and carried the story to a dramatic finish… And once April left the stage, Jeff soldiered on, improvising a heart-wrenching tune that bled from a series of wild, unleashable bleats to smooth and melodic sweetness. It was the kind of moment this reading was made for, and made for an unforgettable centerpiece of the night for our listeners.

Our closing reader for the evening was storyteller Michael Mack, who prepared a series of poems, stories, monologues, and perhaps a host of other definitions that all fit exactly within the realm of writer/performer/artist discussed in the workshop. A consummate professional, Michael was totally unruffled when the impromptu Baltimore punk band downstairs started up halfway through his set; with a skill and flexibility the performers in the audience couldn’t help but envy, Michael flipped his set around to actually incorporate the rebellious, destructive vibe of the music and elevated the night to a whole new level. It’s not exactly what we meant by cross-genre collab (and, by the way, Radio has assured us that this kind of double-scheduling won’t happen again), but it was another amazing moment in an overall great show. We’re so glad to have shared all of this with some amazing first-time visitors.

Next week: to celebrate the first Monday of the month (practically July 4!) we’ll be kicking it with the Presidential Smackdown Slam. New & Improved host Michael Monroe will start us off with a prompt-based writing workshop before a lickety-split-quick open mic. Then, all the way from Jamaica Plain, The Woodrow Wilsons will get our presidential-themed night started with a musical interlude… After which the headline event will take the stage: a 12-person head-to-head series of poems in some of your favorite characters from American history. Join host Kevin Spak as he invites Meaghan Ford, Marshall Gillson, Christian Drake, Zeke Russell, and a host of other ragtag characters in this holiday-themed event. Whoohoo!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 20

It’s finally summer, Cantab! It was just shy of one million degrees outside last night, so Lauren Zuniga was a breath of fresh air from the middle of the country. She performed a great selection of work for us and also shared her new Write Bloody book (if you missed your chance to pick up a copy, you can get it here)! Our slam was lady-heavy in honor of Lauren’s visit, apparently: the final round was newcomer Anna Gallagher with the win over Nora Meiners.

Next Wednesday: we’re back with Danez Smith, who’s making this his one New England stop before crossing the pond for some European gigs. Lucky us! We’ll also hold the seventh open slam in our current 8×8 series.

Tips from the Bar: the Dawn Gabriel Prompt

Write a poem in the form of a voicemail message.

Cantab Feature for Wednesday, June 20, 2012: Lauren Zuniga

2012 WOWPS Finalist Lauren Zuniga. Photo by Keisha Register.

2012 WOWPS Finalist Lauren Zuniga. Photo by Keisha Register.

Lauren Zuniga is a nationally touring poet, teaching artist and emerging activist who believes in dreaming global and shouting local. In 2010, she challenged the Oklahoma legislature with an evocative video poem that received national attention and made the governor cry. Along with stunning hate mail, she was nominated for State Poet Laureate, performed at the prestigious TEDx conference and has since shared stages with top business leaders, state officials and rock stars.

She is the founder of Oklahoma Young Writers, a member of the State Art Council Touring Roster and has represented Oklahoma in 8 national poetry competitions. She has toured from Canada to New York to Texas offering a fresh style of strong imagery and inspiring passion, and her competition chops brought her all the way to the Finals stage of the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Denver. Her work has been featured in several independent films, on XM radio, and in fun places like Muzzle Magazine and The Good Things About America anthology from Write Bloody Publishing. She was one of seven winners chosen for Write Bloody’s 2011 open submission competition for her second poetry collection, Smell of Good Mud, to be released in April 2012. She currently lives with her two kids in an artist collective named Clementine.

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.

Radio Recap for Monday, June 19

Last night’s Radio show was a small epiphany in a sweet bar, folks: the series has finally started to really get its own feeling of arrival and inspiration, and last night’s features were a huge part of that. Claudia Wilson was an amazing opener, showing off the strong voice, unique and quirky stories, and great language choices that have made her an open mic standout. Playing with some tried-and-tested work as well as delving into some new ideas, Claudia showed the room exactly what the feature spot at Radio was designed for. Awesome!

Our second feature of the night was no slouch, either: perhaps you’ve heard of Antonia Lassar, rookie addition to the 2012 Boston Poetry Slam Team and recent full-time artist? Antonia ran an exciting, boundary-breaking workshop to start the night, then pulled herself into character (upon character, upon character) in a poignant, funny, light-handed, and super-solid presentation of selections from her one-woman play The God Box. Listeners were treated to a fabulous array of characters– and a pretty decent cheesecake to finish off the night, this writer dares to remark. Delicious!

Next Monday: we’re back with a poet and storyteller pairing, April Ranger and Michael Mack! The much-missed April will bring her incredible stage presence and new poetry to the stage, followed by a storytelling feature from slam-champ-gone-storyteller Michael. And for performers interested in storytelling, our workshop will be a special treat: an opportunity to learn about transitioning to storytelling with Michael. Bring a 3-5 minute piece (memorized or not) to get some tips and tricks from this experienced artist.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, June 16

It’s a fact: we are totally still reeling from the awesome NorthBEAST Regional at the Cantab this past Wednesday. What a hot night! Teams from Providence, Portland, and New York City all met for a head-to-head-to-head-to-head slam with the home team at the Cantab. If the 2012 National Poetry Slam is going to be any hotter than this, we are gonna have to arrange for ice baths and palm fronds in every venue. DANG, PEOPLE.

A wild selection of poets (and judges!) made this a night to remember. Portland came out of the gate strong, pulling the first 10.0 of the night in round one from their SlamMaster Nate Amadon! However, they were edged out by Providence, who won the sweetheart spot of the night with some returning Cantab favorites, not to mention one or two Finals stage veterans. The home team showed a strong and creative set, including a brand-new all-lady group piece (WHAT), but ultimately fell to the louderARTS team, who chose to make their five-hour commute more than worthwhile! The top indy scorer of the night was Mega from NYC, whose huge score in the third round with an on-page open letter sealed the deal for the big win.

Congrats to everyone, and special thanks to all the poets who traveled so far to slam with us! Want to see more slam? You’re in luck: we’ve got a Presidential theme slam coming up on July 2 at Radio and another NorthBEAST Regional at the Cantab on July 11. Both are guaranteed to be rambunctious, grand fun, and full of unexpected twists.