Uptown Charlotte served as a generous host for the National Poetry Slam 2012. Many people boasted about the prime location and contemporary setting of this year’s festival. Poetry, workshops, parties and networking rooted in the art of language filled the streets of Charlotte for five days.
The NPS 2012 began with 72 teams from North America and Europe competing to win the national team title. Poetry teams participated in bouts that reduced the number of teams competing. I had the honor of participating as a volunteer in various bouts allowing me to gain a behind the scenes look at the festival. The National Poetry Slam could be penned the Olympics of poetry, coincidentally held during this year’s games. Poets are strictly timed and scored; going over 3:10 begins the deduction of points from the team’s final score. In addition to scoring and timing procedures, there were many rules to be followed as far as presentation of poems. The highest cumulative team scores from the bouts allowed those groups to move forward to semi finals then the final stage.
The poet community is deeply rooted in expression and progress. Each day writing workshops were held to assist poets in their writing skills. The Multimedia & Poetry workshop was offered for poets and aspiring writers to learn the elements of good visual storytelling and create visual metaphors. Participants created a personalized toolkit, with apps and online tools to combine their professional and artistic lives. The Creative Community Building & Collaboration seminar presented participants with the opportunity to share their talents and collaborate on the Quasimodo Project, a creation for the upcoming Democratic National Convention which will also be held in Charlotte this September. Although I missed it, the Poetry Flash Mob seemed to be something worth seeing. Poets stood on the four corners of Trade and Tryon and randomly recited poems during the middle of rush hour.
As serious as the participants and patrons of the NPS take this monumental event, there were a plethora of other options offered in addition to slams, such as workshops, seminars and open mics that featured cash prizes. I attended the Slam Master vs. The Rookie Slam where poets competed and were eliminated to determine if the victor would be a slam master or a rookie (a poet under the wing of a master). This event lasted nearly three hours, showing how serious these competitions are!
Emma Rose, slam master, proved herself as the victor in this slam. Other slams open for anyone to perform were Beauty and the Brawn, Erotica Slam, Nerd Slam, Monologue Slam, $h%t On A Shingle Open Mic and various haiku slams. After hearing at least 150 poems, it came time to wind down and Hip Hop Night delivered the perfect spot. This party featured hip hop music from the 1990′s putting everyone on their feet. It comes as no surprise that everyone enjoyed the party since rap music from the period often referred to as the golden era reflects the same themes in which slam poetry is so heavily diluted. The positive vibes were a great way to end this night.
Hosted by Slam Charlotte slam master Bluz, the festival concluded with the Final Stage that consisted of the top four teams with the highest cumulative scores. The top four teams were Nuyorican from New York City, Da Poetry Lounge from Hollywood, Ca., Killeen Poetry Slam from Texas and Slam New Orleans. The Knight Theatre packed a full house in anticipation for the top teams in the country to wow the crowd. Filled with humor, anger, sadness and many more emotions, there were numerous standing ovations for each team. An interesting piece by Da Poetry Lounge featured the lead poet using two other poets as DJ turntables. They were able to distort their voices to sound like she was scratching vinyl records, it was creative to say the least. Slam New Orleans won the national team title bringing the crowd to their feet with their theatrics, concise lyrics and emotional themes including abortion, violence and abuse. The look of determination and happiness could be seen on Slam New Orleans faces as they rushed the stage jumping around and hugging their fellow teammates. Killeen came in second, Nuyorican third, and Da Poetry Slam fourth.
The host city for the National Poetry Slam 2013 will be Boston, Ma. You can keep up with other official poetry slams by visiting Poetry Slam online.