You guys. YOU GUYS. What a great slam at the Cantab last night! Thanks so much to everyone who came, and especially our kick-ass slammers from Port Veritas, Manchester, the Lizard Lounge, and Urbana NYC.
We started the night with an open mic, as usual, but a number of non-usual folks came out to see us; a good number of first-timers hit the stage, with so many new and interesting voices and ideas! Really hoping to see these folks back on one of our future Wednesdays.
The slam itself was a deathmatch among four teams slamming outside of their home venues and trying to win the crowd’s (and judges’) acclaim! Host Kevin Spak introduced the kick-off sacrifice, an energetic Emerson Poetry Project group piece about the politics of body wash by Kieran Collier and Maggie Dunleavey, the slam got underway quick with the transition from this funny and topical piece to the second sacrifice, an intense piece of on-page hindsight from visiting celebrity April Ranger. (And if those can’t prepare a set of slam judges for what’s about to happen to them, we don’t know what will.)
Round one started in earnest with an emergency substitution: Zanne Langlois, former Cantab Champion of Champions and fill-in for a missing Port Veritas slammer, kicked in the door with her working-parts school shooting poem. She was followed up by the first of many group pieces in the slam, a brand-new-to-us three-woman layered piece about “just girls” from Nora Meiners, Porsha Olayiwola, and Lissa Piercy of the Lizard Lounge. Urbana followed suit with Anthony Ragler and Omar Holmon offering excellently rendered advice to black men in horror films (“RUUUUUNN!”). Slam Free or Die was also riding high on the group piece love with a five-poet (!) “Spoiler Alert” that capitalized on the whole team of Christopher Clauss, Bobby Crawford, Sam Rush, Mckendy Fils-Aimé, and Tim Hopkins.
Ultimately, Urbana eeked out a 0.1 lead over the Lizard to take the first round more than a point ahead of the other two teams. Looking to seal the deal early, they hit the stage at the beginning of round two with Jared Singer and a sweetly constructed poem about “love in parts” with a great callback to SFoD’s spoiler alerts; however, despite a massive crowd response, the returned score was the lowest of the night, including a time penalty! The other three teams all looked to recover ground with a strong first-time showing from Portland rookie Kirsten Uhde, a solo piece from top SFoD scorer Christopher, and a second group piece from Lizard showcasing Lissa writing into a poem by Harlym125. Lizard took the top score in the round by just under a point, putting them up on Urbana by 0.8 and bringing all four teams to within two points of one another with two rounds remaining.
SFoD started out round three (slam’s traditional “weird round”) with Mckendy and a baller performance of “Whistling Vivaldi,” good enough make a two-point jump in the scores from the last round. However, Jared and Omar returned to the stage together for another high-energy group piece about their surprising lack of “uncle shower,” tieing with the previous poem even with another time penalty! The Lizard Lounge was also showcasing lots of group work in the slam, bringing a third piece to the stage that centered Harlym125 on the stage with four women offstage in a rapid-fire interview, while Port Veritas responded with a sweet solo piece from Arwyn Sherman on how a cat is preferable to a man-thing. Urbana took the top score in this round, cutting Lizard’s lead back down to 0.1 with SFoD just over a point behind.
Neiel Israel opened up the final round with the night’s biggest score so far (and what would stand as the highest solo score), a beautifully blocked piece about how a black man walks. Tim Hopkins followed strong for SFoD with a powerful piece about addiction in the suburbs. A third burn-up-the-stage solo piece about Merry Clayton came up next from Portland’s Ellyn Touchette. Finally, Urbana played one last group-piece with the much-anticipated duo of Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood, garnering the highest score of the night and topping the Lizard Lounge by just under a point.
Special thanks, of course, are due to our judges: Sam, Tyler, Colleen, Alaina, and the surprisingly efficient trio (!) of Amanda, Deepa, and Chevali. Applause and appreciation for these super-fast, super-consistent, and super-good-spirited folks who helped make the slam happen.
Final standings: Urbana #1, Lizard Lounge #2, Slam Free or Die #3, Port Veritas #4. Make no mistake, all four of these teams are mind-blowingly ready for the National Poetry Slam in just a few weeks. What an great night!
Next week: you’ve seen him host, now see him feature! Kevin Spak celebrates a birthday and moves to Denver all in the same week, so we might as well get some poems out of him, too. Don’t miss this lovely co-host’s farewell feature as we close another chapter in Cantab history.