The Merc slam team wraps up a competition and kicks off a collaboration

The Mercury Cafe's slam poetry team isn't resting on its laurels. Many key members of the Merc's competitive poetry team are still out of state, having earned a spot in the semifinals during the annual national slam poetry competition in St. Paul, Minn. that wrapped up this weekend. But the Mercury slam competitors who stayed at home are already focusing on the future.

The team's immediate plans are all about collaboration. The Merc team will partner with local filmmakers from the Boulder Fringe Festival for "Poetry in Motion," a collaboration that will combine poems from six Merc poets with related shorts by BFF filmmakers. Sunday's weekly poetry reading at the Merc included a preview of the creative marriage, as filmmakers and poets offered creative samples before the Denver Minor Disturbance Youth Slam team's regular competition.

"It's cross-genre work, blending mediums and art forms," notes Mercury Slam Poet Daniel Leamen. "The poems were submitted (yesterday) and the films will be made this week. They won't be a direct visual representation; we don't want to make music videos."

Instead, the filmmakers will incorporate visual cues and story arcs liberally taken from the poems, a structure organizers say will lend for a more innovative creative fusion.

"This year, I wanted to do something that was cross-genre. How can two people who operate in entirely different media collaborate to create something new?" offers Kestrel Burley, associate producer for the Boulder Fringe Festival, now in its sixth year. Burley added that instead of using words from the submitted poem or a direct reading, filmmakers will rely on more abstract signs of influence.

Burely says the partnership is aimed at drawing a new type of crowd to the festival.

"The festival has attracted mostly theater performers, dancers, musicians and circus performers," Burley observes. "It hasn't attracted a lot of filmmakers or spoken word artists."

The BFF film crew will present their final shorts -- all based on poems submitted by Merc poets -- during an official Big Reveal Screening Party at 7 p.m. at Saturday at the BINDERY space. It's part of the festival's weeklong program, a menu of artwork, music and spoken word that continues Wednesday with a panel on cross-genre works at the Packing House Center for the Arts that will feature artists from Ian Cooke to nationally renowned poet Mike McGee.

Sunday's slam session at the Merc included short samples from filmmakers Timothy Roessler, Tara Rynders, Matt Talarico, Ben Garst, Lindsey Stephens, Matthew Perino and Johnny Morehouse, with accompanying poems from Cindy Marvell, Suzi Smith, Panama Soweto, Ian Dougherty, Jared Smith and the Merc's youth team.

For veteran poets at the Merc, the new collaboration offers an occasion to spotlight the team's work in a different medium and a different creative vocabulary. It also provides a podium to spotlight a vibrant local creative scene, they said.

"Slam is kind of like you locked the Olympics and some poems in a Motel 6 with a bottle of whisky. Nine months later, out popped poetry slam," Leamen observes. "The Denver scene is easily one of the best spoken word scenes in the country."

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A.H. Goldstein