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.

Feature for April 4, 2012: Team Selection Preliminaries

Boston Poetry Slam

Every performance poet in the country wants a shot at the biggest annual stage the genre has to offer: the National Poetry Slam, which hits Charlotte, North Carolina this August. The first step to getting there? Securing a spot on the local slam team, of course. As winter gives way to spring, the Boston Poetry Slam will be heating up with a three-night, seven-round slam series designed to narrow the field of Cantab all-stars down to a fortunate and fabulous fivesome.

It all kicks off with the Team Selection Preliminaries, the first night in the series. With up to twenty-one poets qualified to slam in the evening’s marathon two-round show, this will be the Boston Poetry Slam’s biggest slam of the year! The amazing list of all-stars is a work in progress, but you can follow along here on our website.

The competition will be hosted by the professionally rambunctious Sean Patrick Mulroy upon his return from touring Europe and the U.S. An experienced slammer, host, and former Boston Poetry Slam Team member, Sean is known for keeping the slam rolling and the energy high… With maybe just a little extra snark along the way.

Doors for the show open at 7:15. A SHORTENED open mic begins at 8:00 and the slam begins at approximately 9:00. 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, March 28, 2012

It was like 1999 at the Cantab all over again last night, folks… Well, we had a different bartender. And a different SlamMaster. And also the stage is on the other side of the room– never mind, so it wasn’t anything like 1999, but it was a little bit like a reunion! Some old-school open mic folks showed up to strut their stuff just in time for the feature by James Caroline. Actually, that wasn’t like 1999, either, since Jme brought us all new work and a brand-new chapbook, Pointing Bone. Our Last Chance Slam was all the wackiness and excitement we expected, with crowd favorite Sophia Holtz taking the final round over strong first-time Cantabber Josh M.

Next week: it’s the Boston Poetry Slam’s biggest slam of the year! TWENTY poets are confirmed for the Team Selection Preliminaries, which will be a two-round slam to narrow the field to just twelve. This night is a special fundraiser for the team, which means a $5 cover charge, but it’s worth it: check out the list of qualified competitors here.

Tips from the Bar: Happy Pangolin Day!

Write about a little-known holiday. (St. Patrick’s Day does NOT count.)

Feature for March 28, 2012: James Caroline

James Caroline, Boston Poetry Slam host. Photo by Caleb Cole.

James Caroline, Boston Poetry Slam host. Photo by Caleb Cole.

James Caroline has been taking the mic at the Boston Poetry Slam (and Lizard Lounge Poetry Jam) as host, feature, and welcome regular for longer than he’d care to admit. A vibrant, emotional performer and highly disciplined writer, and with the intensity of his live shows garnering comparisons to Patti Smith, James has performed on three continents, competed in three National Poetry Slams, and represented the Boston Poetry Slam in the first ever Individual World Poetry Slam. Selected publication credits include The Lifted Brow, The Cascadia Review, Quarry, Subliminal, A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, and Painted Bride Quarterly. Recently, he became the closing speaker for Join The Impact Massachusetts, performing alongside Senators and activists in protests against DOMA, Prop 8, and other Queer issues. He is currently working on a collection of poems, Live, From the Killing Jar, and a novel in verse based on the myth of Dionysus. James hosts regularly at the Boston Poetry Slam and his full bio is available here.

Doors for the show open at 7:15. The open mic begins at 8:00 and the feature performs at approximately 10:00. The Last Chance Slam to qualify for the 2012 Team Selection Slams will follow. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $3.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Last night, we had one of our favorite features stop by for a set: Jamaal May brought us his thoughts on the process of writing and being a writer… And, of course, some damn fine work read and performed, too! Can’t get enough? You can check out his press, Organic Weapon Arts, to order books or even submit to their chapbook series.

Then, to close the night, we successfully held the first Champion of Champions slam in the fabulous new format! And by “successfully,” we mean the four previous slam winners who arrived to compete (Kevin Spak, Patrick S., Ed Wilkinson, and Matthew Richards) fought tooth and nail through three rounds for the $50 prize. Patrick S. was crowned season champion over Kevin Spak, giving him the right to challenge Simone Beaubien, the reigning champ, to a brand-new-poem face-off. Simone’s creepy AK-47 poem trumped Patrick’s creepy teddy bear poem by 4-1 judge preference, so she retains the venue title and will be expected to defend again in July.

Next week: we invited James Caroline to feature and told him to do whatever he wants. Expect to get your heart torn out and get all sexed up, possibly at the same time… Which should make our final 8×8 before the Team Slam Preliminaries, the infamous Last Chance Slam, even more interesting.

Tips from the Bar: The Su Millerz Prompt

Or maybe it’s The Carrie Fisher prompt. Or it can be The Ansel Adams prompt if you prefer… But here it is: Postcards from Hell. Go!

Feature for March 21, 2012: Jamaal (“Versiz”) May

Jamaal "Versiz" May

Jamaal "Versiz" May

Jamaal (“Versiz”) May is a Cave Canem Fellow, Callaloo Writing Fellow, and student in Warren Wilson’s MFA for writers. He is the author of a poetry chapbook (The God Engine, Pudding House Press, 2009) and editor of the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Series. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, Indiana Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Blackbird, and Verse Daily, among other magazines and anthologies. May has received two scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, an International Publication Prize from Atlanta Review, and he was a finalist for the 2010 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. Recently, he was named the 2011-2012 Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University.

May is a two-time Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam Champion, two-time Detroit Slam Champion, five time National Poetry Slam team member, and two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist. He has coached three Brave New Voices youth slam teams and teaches poetry classes through the Inside Out Literary Arts Project. More information, including samples of his work, can be found at

Doors for the show open at 7:15. The open mic begins at 8:00 and the feature performs at approximately 10:00. The Champion of Champions poetry slam in the current 8×8 series will follow. The show is 18+ (ID required) and the cover charge is $3.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Last week, our feature made our faces hurt from smiling… This week, Stephen Meads left our bellies sore with laughing and hungry for more! The Bay-Area-gone-Portland sensation rocked the house, and you can expect him to do the same at the Manchester slam this Thursday and at Worcester’s Dirty Gerund on Monday. The last 8×8 slam in the series came down to Sophia Holtz, who’d just survived a first-round tie, and an on-fire Matthew Richards. Matthew took the finals in an exceptionally great round of an all-around excellent slam.

Next week: extraordinary writer and performer Jamaal “Versiz” May takes the stage in the feature slot. A Champion of Champions slam will follow: the last eight slam winners will fight for the chance to face off against reigning champ Simone Beaubien in a one-round, brand-new-poem, winner-take-all slam-off.