The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








A performance from a past Vox Pop Poetry Slam Tournament. Photo by Christopher Clauss.

Vox Pop Poetry Slam Tournament

When: Friday, Sept. 22, events start at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Sept. 23, workshops start at 10 a.m., main slam starts at 6 p.m. 
Where: Stark Brewing Company, 500 Commercial St., Manchester 
Cost: $5 cover for Friday events, $5 to $10 per workshop, and $5 cover for main slam 
More info:

Word battle
New Hampshire’s largest poetry slam returns

By Angie Sykeny

 More than 60 local and international poets will face off in a battle of words at the fifth annual Vox Pop Poetry Slam Tournament, happening Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23, at Stark Brewing Co. in Manchester. The two-day event, which is the largest poetry slam tournament ever held in New Hampshire, will feature team and individual poetry bouts as well as poetry workshops led by special guest poets, all open to the public. 

“If you don’t have much interest in poetry or don’t like poetry, this is the event that will change your mind,” said Mark Palos, co-director for Slam Free or Die, which is hosting the event. “I think a lot of people will be surprised at how their preconceived notions about poetry will be challenged. It will change the way you think about poetry.” 
It all kicks off Friday with a showcase of the poets who will be leading the workshops; the poets will perform a short set of their poems and give a preview of their workshop topics. Then, there will be an individual poetry slam in which 10 poets will compete over three rounds for a chance to win $100. 
Three two-hour workshops will be offered on Saturday, covering unique topics related to poetry writing and performance. Past workshops have had themes like timing a performance, writing about grief and writing about music. The poet-instructors are asked to make the workshops accessible to people with all levels of poetry experience. 
“You don’t have to be someone who writes consistently. Anyone can walk in the door and be part of this workshop,” Palos said. “But poets who have been writing for a while will also get something out of it.” 
The main event will take place that evening, during which 10 teams will compete in two five-team bouts with four rounds. The two highest-scoring teams from each bout will then go head to head in a final “deathmatch” to win the grand prize of $1,000. 
For the preliminary bouts, teams will be judged by five randomly selected audience members. For the deathmatch, the winner will be determined by overall audience reaction, meaning the loudest cheer. 
“Having the audience judge is a good way for the poets to get a solid sense of whether or not they’re communicating what they want to with their art,” Palos said. “Are they just preaching to the choir, or are they actually reaching people and moving people?” 
Each team can include four or five poets, selected by the poets themselves. The “pick-up team” format of the slam is a unique feature of the Vox Pop slam as traditional slams assemble teams through competition and don’t give poets the option of choosing their own teammates. 
“Since this is an independent tournament, we can make up our own rules,” Palos said. “We keep it close to what a normal poetry slam would be, but make changes that allow [poets] to do things that, due to restrictions, they can’t normally do.” 
Poets will be allowed 12 minutes to perform their poems as opposed to the usual three minutes allowed at traditional slams. 
“We’re trying to create an environment that allows them to be as creative as possible.” Palos said. “A lot [of poets] can write a three-minute poem, but if they had an extra 30 seconds, they could take it to a much higher level, so this allows them to do their poems as they were originally written and intended to be done without having to cut it.” 
The liberal structure of the the Vox Pop slam appeals to and attracts poets from all over the country, Palos said, including “some of the best poets in the world” who have performed at the highest level like the final stage of the National Poetry Slam and individual world poetry slams. 
Poets may write poems individually, then share them with their team, or they may write their poems collaboratively. Most of the poets have been working on their featured poems for years, Palos said. There will be a handful of poems that have never been performed before and will premiere at the slam, as well as new and more polished versions of previously performed poems. 
“This tournament brings together a lot of really amazing, top-shelf work,” Palos said. “This is some of the best poetry you’re ever going to see in one night.” 

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