When the going gets tough, the tough get going: SlamNuba's final faceoff commences tonight

There are slam poets, and then there are SLAM POETS: Though there's more than a little love and support spread around in the performance poetry community, it's still everybody for themselves when they hit the stage. That means there's going to be some fierce nitty-gritty going down at Westword MasterMind-winning Slam Nuba's Last Chance Slam, tonight at the Crossroads Theater, beginning at 7:30 p.m. It signifies the last chance for local slammers to qualify to compete for a spot on the 2011 Slam Nuba National Slam Team, which will head to Boston for the the U.S. finals in August.

Big shoes to fill, wordsmiths: This is a team that's made the top ten in the nation annually since its inception. And its also the product of some tough intercity competition with the Mercury Cafe Slam Team. Oof. So don't be surprised if all the stops are pulled here. "It's hard to say who's going to win," Slam Nuba poet and mentor Suzi Q. Smith says. "We're always getting surprised: Someone who's never even slammed before comes out of the blue and wins it."

And because Denver supports two slam teams, she adds, there's a lot of cross-pollination: "The same poets go back and forth between the two. The competition is that fierce here in Denver." Some, herself included, make the effort to qualify for both teams, just so they won't be left out. She credits both SlamNuba's mothership, Cafe Nuba, and the Merc for popularizing the literary sport over the last ten or so years in this area, which has become "a mecca for slam poets." Not only do many top-seeded poets live here, but many touring poets consider Denver a regular stop.

Tonight's winners and any previously qualifying poets will go on to compete in a Slam-off to determine the final five team members on April 1 (also at 7:30 p.m. at Crossroads), so if you hope to compete, you'd better not fool around. "You must get there by 7:30 if you want to compete," Smith warns. "We cap it at ten people, so if you don't make it in time to sign up, all your hopes and dreams are dashed till next year.

"Poets," she adds, "are notoriously late."

It costs $5 to spectate on Monday and $7 on April 1; visit the Facebook page for details.

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