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Poetry slams get big in the Springs

Dakishia Duckie Reid won a recent poetry slam at - Cedars. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • Dakishia Duckie Reid won a recent poetry slam at Cedars.

It's time to get slammed ... well, poetry style, that is.

"Slam poetry provides a competitive opportunity to kids who aren't involved in sports or other activities," says local Slammaster Carol Horen.

"It's amazing to see how quickly they pick it up and become involved in writing their own poetry; what they do is always really fresh and original."

Horen heads the Thin Air Poetry Slam team, composed of five poets that compete locally and nationally as well as lead performance workshops throughout the Front Range. Aside from a mere love of the verse, Horen believes that slam helps develop confidence while encouraging participants to branch out creatively.

For many, slam breaks ground beyond the confines of traditional academic poetry, because it allows for a freestyle crafting outside of common rhyme and meter formulas. Slam poetry, as a performance genre, exists somewhat as a misnomer. The language flow that slam poets primarily utilize is actually closer to "spoken word," as slam poets write with the implicit intention of auditory delivery.

Slam is unlike an open-mic platform or an MC battle, in which two opponents face off, largely to insult one another via hip-hop poetry and improvised mockery. Rather, slam poets perform solo in three-minute increments that are critiqued by audience participation and a panel of judges. Slam poets compete with unlimited boundaries on subject matter and deliver their composition with the aim of outperforming one another rather than putting down their competitors.

"As an actor, the move to slam poetry was easy, because I already had the performance part down. The hard part for me was the writing, but slam is a good form for anyone who has performance strength," said local poet Kevin Rorke, who transitioned to slam from a theater and music background in 2002.

Rorke has since held one of the five spots on the local Thin Air Poetry Slam team and won several slam competitions through his works.

Slam poetry owes its roots to pioneer poet Marc Smith, who in the mid-1980s created a weekly poetry competition in Chicago. Smith designed the competition for maximum audience enjoyment (open mics tended to be boring) and set a form that subsequently evolved into what we now label a "poetry slam." A formal slam obeys the fundamental principles that a poem must be original work performed without props, costumes or musical instrumentation.

Poetry slams encourage audiences to engage the poets through booing or cheering during or after a work is performed. Expect all forms of content at a slam, taking into account the respective region or climate local to the performers. Some arenas may draw a more sociopolitical batch of poems whereas others elicit sappy love ramblings, quirky humor routines or introspective personal narratives.

"A slam a week can get old, so we keep it fresh for the audience with theme slams, like song lyric slams, erotic slams or a sock puppet slam," said Horen. "Soon we'll probably do some Haiku Deathmatch -- it's all really a show for the audience; we want to make it as fun as possible."

-- Matthew Schniper


Slams in the Springs

Thin Air Poetry Slam

OpticalReverb at Cedars Jazz Club, 3125 Sinton Road

Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

$5 suggested donation

Visit for more info.

Pikes Peak Community College presents Open Mic Night: Poetry, Spoken Word and Freestyle

PPCC Downtown Campus, Student Commons, 100 W. Pikes Peak Ave.

Friday, April 1, 7-9 p.m., and Friday, May 6, 7-9 p.m.

Free and open to the public; call 527-6000 or 540-2506 for more info.

Poetry Slam and Open Mic

Club Q, 3430 N. Academy Blvd.

Sundays at 8 p.m.

Free and open to the public; ages 18 and up only. Call 570-1429 or visit for more info.

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