A little over a year ago, Luke Cissell began the twice-monthly open-mic poetry event Hear Here. The Colorado Springs native designed the forum to stray away from poetry in bars and clubs and to create a specific, all-ages environment for exhibition and rapport: "Focus on doing you, and find your inner voice and cultivate that," he says. "It's your own voice, your own story."
Having started his career mentoring children in treatment centers, the 28-year-old runs Hear Here in down time from his day job as a licensed loan officer. On the second and third Saturdays of each month at Movement Arts Center, Hear Here collects creative types with the aforementioned open mics, along with guest poets and workshops.
Among them is full-time poet Natasha Spencer, 32, who goes by ItsReaLight. She takes the darker route to poetic catharsis, penning such lines as, "I often wondered how often Tinker Bell visited us. Under my Momma's nostrils is where she left her dust."
At each Hear Here event, poets like Spencer read to an average of about 50 people. But now, they'll have a chance to access much larger audiences. Cissell's assembling a team of five, plus a backup, to represent Colorado Springs in national and international competition hosted by Poetry Slam, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes poets to better their chances of being published or booked on spoken-word tours.
Cissell says there may be opportunities for performances in Colorado or New Mexico. But he's mainly focused on "competing in Boston in summer 2013 against teams from all over the nation."
To build the team, Cissell will host a special slam competition Saturday, Oct. 20, where poets will be given three minutes to bring their best prizefighter of a poem to go tongue-to-tooth against others. The winner of each monthly slam — judged by three to five random audience members — from Oct. 20 until March 30, 2013 will earn a spot on the Springs' elite slam team going to Boston.
With $5 donations accepted at each Hear Here, Cissell hopes to raise upward of $6,000 for the competition.