The Hippo


Apr 24, 2019








Emily Eastman at Slam Free or Die. Courtesy photo.

Attend a NorthBeast slam

Where: Milly’s Tavern, 500 N. Commercial St., Manchester
When: The team event is Friday, Sept. 26, with doors opening at 7 p.m. ($5 cover, $1,000 prize); Individual event is Saturday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. ($5 cover, $350 prize)
Attend a workshop
All workshops occur at Milly’s Tavern. No registration required, but participants should arrive at least 15 minutes early. All workshops are 90 minutes long.
• Translating Stories and Poetry from English Saturday, Sept. 27, at 11 a.m., $5 per person, hosted by Adam Stone (who has competed in the National Poetry Slam 12 times, was Cape Cod’s Spoken Word Poet Laureate, won Boston Poetry Slam’s Champion of Champions more times than anyone)
• BEASTMODE Saturday, Sept. 27, at 12:30 p.m., suggested $1-5 donation, workshop hosted by Harlym 1two5 (born Jamele Adams, educator, activist, entertainer, poet, actor, dean of students at Brandeis University)
• Working Through Stress, Trauma or Illness: Poetry as Catharsis Saturday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m., $5 per person, hosted by Kaycee Filson (teaching artist, performance poet, theater maker based out of New Orleans, teen arts coordinator at the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, co-facilitator of New Orleans Youth Open Mic)
• Emotional Historians: You, Your Poems and the 3D World Saturday, Sept. 27, at 3:30 p.m., $10 suggested donation, hosted by Jon Sands (author of The New Clean, work featured in New York Times, 2014 Best American Poetry, co-founder of Poets in Unexpected Places, teaches creative writing in NYC with Bailey House and Positive Health Project; has represented NYC many times at National Poetry Slam)

Get slammed
Poetry like you’ve never heard it before

By Kelly Sennott

 You don’t need to “know” poetry to get slam poetry — or to judge it. For segments of the NorthBeast Underground Team Slam (NUTS) event this weekend, the only requirement of judges is that they not personally know the 10 poets competing. 

“We have a lot of people who comment on Slam Free or Die and say, ‘I didn’t think I liked poetry. I’m not a person who has the authority to say that was great poetry, but I know I liked that,’” said SFOD SlamMaster Mark Palos.
Hence SFOD’s draw and expansion in New Hampshire and beyond. The Manchester-based slam poetry organization has been holding weekly readings and bouts at Milly’s Tavern for years, drawing more people to the art than your traditional English class. Every year SFOD sends representatives to regional and national competitions, and last year, Milly’s was named the best place for performance poetry by Write Bloody Publishing.
This weekend brings SFOD’s biggest endeavor yet. NUTS spans two days and contains the only pick-up team poetry slam event in the northeast. It’s also the largest slam tournament ever held in New Hampshire.
Why has slam poetry drawn such a following? Palos has a few ideas. Entertainment value is one.
“A poetry slam is kind of like poetry’s answer to an extreme sport. The poet has only three minutes to present their [original] work in a certain way that’s entertaining. With that time limit, they’re forced to make every syllable count. They have to embody the poem physically, not just with words, but with their presence as well,” Palos said. 
The effect can produce tears, laughter, silliness, farce and passion among performers and viewers. What audiences don’t pick up from words they can see in the performance.
“You can perform anything with passion, even if you’re performing in a different language. Everyone can relate to passion, and there’s a high level of that in a poetry slam because the work demands it,” Palos said. 
Registration is closed for the team portion Friday night but open to viewers. Eight pick-up teams will compete in two four-team bouts. The final two teams will move on to the “Deathmatch,” which will decide who walks away with the $1,000 cash prize. First-round winners will be chosen by unbiased audience members and the final by audience cheers.
The team tournament layout is like the National Poetry Slam except one detail. For most competitions, teams represent a larger entity; when SFOD competes in tournaments, for instance, organization members need to compete for a slot. Competitors are stuck with who they’re stuck with.
“With this, you can pick your dream team,” Palos said. “In this structure, poets are much more comfortable taking risks and producing more interesting, more challenging work because they’re on a team they feel they can work with in that way.”
There’s also an individual competition Saturday night, for which registration is still open. To enter, hopeful competitors must attend the Friday night competition; at the end of the Deathmatch, the names of 10 of those entrants will be drawn from a hat (with a $25 entrance fee).
“It gives more people an opportunity to be a part of the event and adds an air of randomness. A lot of competitions end up being very predictable. The people you expect to make the finals make the finals. If you’re familiar with poetry slams, you have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to do. They become less fun. There aren’t any wildcards. This is an entire event of just wildcards,” Palos said.
Between events, visiting poets Kaycee Filson, Jon Sands, Harlym 1two5 and Adam Stone are traveling to Manchester to present Saturday workshops.
Palos would like to see the slam poetry community grow; for the first time ever, SFOD collaborated with the Poetry Society of New Hampshire in producing an event. This weekend’s endeavor is a high step from last year’s trial run. He sees a lot of hope.
“Kaycee Filson is coming up from New Orleans just to do a workshop. Her team won nationals last year. I asked her, half expecting to have to beg her to come, and she said ‘Yes, definitely. I really want to be a part of this.’ A lightbulb went on. We must be doing something right to be attracting people of this caliber,” Palos said. 
As seen in the September 25, 2014 issue of the Hippo. 

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