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).

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.

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.