Back in December, after spending an evening at the monthly downtown Phoenix street fair known as First Fridays, I wandered into Fair Trade Cafe near the LightRail station at Roosevelt and Central in search of a hot beverage. What I found (in addition to coffee) was a slam poetry show. As an English major, my definition of poetry has been shaped by classes spent examining poets with diverse styles, but I had never encountered spoken word poetry except in a disclaimer from a creative writing professor that we would be discussing written word poetry and not spoken, because slam poetry is “a whole different ball game.”
Watching spoken word, I did find it to be an entirely new experience that challenged my conception of poetry, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was drawn in by the blending of sets of words that fit into my definition of poetry and the stylized vocal delivery that turns slam poetry into a performing art and a category of its own. If you’re interested in trying a new way of experiencing poetry, you should check it out:
Ed Mabrey, the 2007-2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, is the founder of Black Pearl Poetry, which runs two shows in Phoenix per week:
Black Pearl Poetry Tempe Thursday: Every Thursday 8-10:15 p.m., $5.00 admission, MADCAP Theaters (the former Harkins theaters) at 730 S. Mill Ave in Tempe.
Black Pearl Poetry Phoenix Friday: Every Friday (except 3rd Friday) 7:45-10 p.m., $5.00 admission, Fair Trade Cafe at 1020 N. 1st Ave. in downtown Phoenix. *Every 3rd Friday instead of the evening show, there’s a poetry workshop in the same venue from 5:30-7 p.m.
This week’s lineup:
April 1 (Tempe): The National Poetry Slam Finals for Team Selection, an open mic, special guest performers, a farewell to the ASU SunDevilSlam Team, and featured performer Taalam Acey.
April 2 (downtown Phoenix): The Youth National Poetry Slam Finals for Team Selection, an open mic, special guest performers, and featured performer Taalam Acey.
These shows are both once a year events and two of the biggest shows that Black Pearl will host all year, which makes them perfect opportunities to get a feel for what slam poetry is all about. Don’t forget to say hi if you see me there!