So today is International Women's Day, and regardless of whether you already knew that or even care now that we've told you, Denver is placed particularly well for some serious celebration this year. Today marks the first day of competition in the Women of the World Poetry Slam, which is in turn a first of its own. Although it already hosts the national champion slam team (Slam Nuba), Denver joined the roster of national slam host cities in 2012 with the four-day competition as its first gig.
From yesterday through Sunday, the poetry slam challenges the best double-X-chromosed poets in the world across a weekend devoted to topping it. Although slams will be interspersed with an extensive sleight of creative and off-kilter events throughout its stay in Denver, the competition proper begins with the first preliminary rounds tonight at 7 at three core venues: Mercury Cafe, Eden and Leela European Cafe. Over the course of the weekend, 72 competitors, most of whom claim top titles in their own cities, will be whittled down to one winner through progressively tougher slams.
Ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, poets compete for points in creativity and presentation in front of judges selected randomly from the competition's audience in order to ensure fairness. On Saturday, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Denver Art Museum's Ponti Hall, 12 finalists will compete to become the fifth annual Women of the World champ.
The halls of history already include one previous Colorado winner, Andrea Gibson, who represented the Denver/Boulder area with her 2008 title. (Poetic justice?) Last night, Denver/Boulder poet Lindsay Miller won the final spot in the 2012 competition at the "Last Chance Slam" in the same venue where she first witnessed slam poetry: Denver's own Mercury Cafe. Counting Miller, the competition features three Denver natives, though Amy Everhart and Kay Krown now represent Portland and Chicago, respectively.
"It's beautiful to see how many people are showing up, and having all of these poet friends coming in from other cities to be here and really promote the art is incredible," says Denver poet and WOW co-organizer Suzi Q. Smith. "Last night we packed out Mercury Cafe with at least 300 people. For a Wednesday night in Denver, Colorado for poetry, that is not bad -- not bad at all."
But this weekend is not all slam, bam, thank you, ma'am: The full roster of Women of the World events, available in detail online, includes haiku spin-offs, a walking tour of Denver;'s history in beat poetry, a males-only poetry recital, a hip-hop showcase and a handful of open mics and writing workshops. On Saturday afternoon, Denver youth slam team (and 2012 Westword MasterMind winner) Minor Disturbance presents four slam showcases that include spots from teen poets and Slam Nuba.
The process to attract the competition began last year, when the city's first bid to host it was turned down. Depending on its success, the gig could place Denver in the running for future (and larger) hosting roles.
"I think our poetry scene will see what the result is really quickly after this is all over," Smith says. "We want to keep this momentum going and really galvanize the scene. Now we have all the relationships in place between people in the community that if we want to throw another slam or maybe a nationals, we're ready. The groundwork has been laid."
For more on Smith, Women of the World and how it came to Denver, read our recent cover story, "Slam, Bam, Thank You, Ma'am."