War of the Words: National Poetry Slam Championships Coming to Denver in August 2017

Suzi Q. Smith heads Poetry Slam Inc., and also performs.
Suzi Q. Smith heads Poetry Slam Inc., and also performs.
courtesy Suzi Q. Smith

Denver's slam-poetry scene is booming, and it promises to explode next year, when the National Poetry Slam Championships come to Denver for the first time next August. Last year, local poet Suzi Q. Smith, the executive director of Poetry Slam Inc., revealed that Denver had been named an anchor city, which means the championships will return to the Mile High City every five years; she just released more details on the event.

Now in its 28th year, the National Poetry Slam brings together hundreds of poets from all over North America, who compete in four- to five-person teams in front of thousands of fans. The weeklong festival is part championship tournament, part poetry summer camp and part traveling exhibition, according to Smith.

Denver has one of the most thriving slam-poetry scenes in the nation, Smith notes, and is home to many slam-poetry champions, including Andrea Gibson, winner of the 2008 Women of the World Poetry Slam championship; Dominique Christina, 2012 and 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion; Amy Everhart, winner of the 2009 Individual World Poetry Slam championship; and Slam Nuba and Denver Mercury Slam, the National Poetry Slam championship teams for 2011 and 2006, respectively. Additionally, the Minor Disturbance youth team won the 2012 and 2013 Brave New Voices Youth World Championships and has made more consecutive finals than any team in poetry-slam history. (Minor Distrubance is also a Westword MasterMind winner.)

"With the 2017 festival coming to Denver, our goals are to further solidify Denver as a national hub of arts and culture, to promote a welcoming and celebratory space for spoken-word performers from throughout North America, and to increase the ever-growing fan base of poetry slam by reaching new audiences," Smith says. "The poetry-slam community is one of the most inclusive and diverse communities in the world, offering a stage to voices from many different backgrounds, and the community is growing every day. The membership of Poetry Slam Inc. has nearly doubled in the last three years, and slam-poetry events worldwide reach an online audience of millions. The poets at the National Poetry Slam have all competed to get there, and many are among the most well-known performing poets in North America." 

The 2017 festival will include writing workshops led by experts from all over the United States, a haiku competition, and a series of themed open mics and poetry slams that will be open to the public. The tournament kicks off on Tuesday, August 8, at six venues simultaneously, and will culminate in the final night of competition on Saturday, August 12, at the Paramount Theater. Tickets will be available starting in December. Watch for updates on poetryslam.com.

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