The defending champs are back
The House Slam team with its championship trophy in 2015.
Given the competitive selection of teams, it's rare for the same five poets to compete together multiple times. But last year's slam champions, Baltimore's Team Slammageddon, is the exception, and it's ready to defend its throne.
Audience, warm up your vocal chords
The view from the stage during the 2016 competition.
"Come ready to participate," instructs Smith, because slam is a community-oriented art. Heckling is a faux pas, but a "grunt-moan" if a line resonates shows support. There are also call-and-response traditions that might catch a newcomer off-guard. (When Slam Nuba
members say the team's name, don't be alarmed if the audience cheers, "We cut heads!") If you disagree with a judge's evaluation of a team, booing is permitted.
There are on-stage rules, too.
The poem she's performing must be three minutes or under.
Each team has three minutes per round. That's it. Musical accompaniment, props and nudity are prohibited.
You can get involved (it's free!).
Slam poetry gets passionate at the 2016 National Poetry Slam.
According to organizer Smith, this year's event includes "more programming
than any National Poetry Slam ever has," from affinity group open mics (for those who identify as disabled or indigenous, for instance) to sessions on how to make money as a touring poet. Of course, a variety of writing workshops are sprinkled in, too, for those looking to hone their craft.
Its organizers love poetry, and you should, too.
If these words don't inspire you, what will? In Smith's words, "I love poetry because it can say the unsayable thing. It's specific and intentional and careful language. And I believe that words are really, really powerful. It's the most potent form of language that we have." Adds Brooks: "There's something invigorating, encouraging, refreshing about not only speaking your own truth, but hearing those from others and seeing how much freedom they get from it.... Poetry in its innate form is life-saving, in my opinion."
The National Poetry Slam runs through August 11 at various venues around Denver. For a full schedule and tickets, visit the National Poetry Slam online. The finals, August 12 at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theater, will be hosted by SlamNuba co-founder Ken Arkind and will feature performances from Denver poets Dominique Christina and Andrea Gibson.