The National Poetry Slam has been swarming all over downtown St. Paul this week, with preliminary events taking place at multiple venues, including the Artist’s Quarter, Fitzgerald Theater, Lowry Lab, POP!, and Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Qualifying slam teams from all over the country throw down their best pieces, competing in heated bouts against some truly impressive performers in a quest for the top spot.
There’s always one venue that sits somewhat outside of the main hub of big events like this, and Camp on Robert Street is a bit of a walk from the above mentioned locations. I’ve been volunteering at Camp, an intimate stage with great drink specials and amazing poets coming in and out to prove themselves. The local Minneapolis team held it down on Tuesday night against teams out of Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona, but team Nuba out of Denver took the propers for the evening, bringing the team’s diverse and powerful individuals together for a few insane group pieces that blew the roof off.
For those not familiar with Slam Poetry, now is the time to check it out. This is the best of the best and a great introduction to the style. Slam is loud, energetic, boistrous and engaging. It often deals with heavy subject matter, like racism, identity politics, sexuality, and violence, but the best poets also know how to approach lighter material (one of the best poems I saw at Camp on Wednesday was a duo piece about how being a comic supervillian is so much better than being a hero). To see so many progressive people all in the same building pouring their hearts and souls on stage in front of a live audience is some affecting stuff, so prepare to feel some intense energy if you decide to check out the semi-finals.
Each night, five judges picked randomly out of the audience decide whose poetry was the most powerful of the bunch. Tonight’s semi-finals, taking place at the Artist’s Quarter, Fitzgerald Theater, History Theatre and McNally Smith, round up the top scoring teams and pit them against each other to see who will make it to the finals, going down Saturday at Roy Wilkins. This is going to be epic.
Visit the official site for more info on the event.