The 2013 National Poetry Slam is officially over! Congratulations to our champions, Slam New Orleans, who returned to clinch the title for the second year in a row over fellow Finals Stage competitors Da Poetry Lounge, Elevated!, and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Congratulations to every poet who participated and remembered that the points are not the point, the point is the poetry (thanks, Allan Wolf). Congratulations to our audience members for having the good sense to come out and see some amazing poems, and to our judges, for being such good sports about assigning numbers to art. Thanks to our sponsors, who helped us put on a great show in more ways than one. And the hugest, heartiest THANK YOU of all to our volunteers, who donated hours and hours of their time to make the whole thing run smoothly. I’d especially like to thank Casey Rocheteau, who gave so much of herself to help others, and also did one of the best poems I heard during the competition as a sacrifice for a preliminary bout at the Davis Square Theater.
If you couldn’t make it – or you want to live it all over again – there are a lot of links in this paragraph that you’ll probably be interested in. In addition to posting photos from the week on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, there are full sets on our official website, and photographer Jeff Tamagini created some amazing timelapses of the bouts he attended. Jonathan Weiskopf is posting photographs from his portrait series on his Tumblr. The SlamCenter team (full disclosure: that includes me) stayed up until 2 AM every night recapping every single bout of NPS. Button Poetry has already posted their first video from the competition, which means that many more are coming soon. And I don’t have the official word on how long this will be true for, but it looks like the livestream of Finals is still archived over at Ustream.
We also got a lot of great press, including from the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine. Many bouts sold out, and by my (admittedly shaky) math, 678 poems were read in regular competition alone, including sacrificial poets and the nailbiting tiebreaker round between the Nuyorican and Austin at Semi-Final bout #3. If one of the poems you heard this week moved you, I encourage you to get in touch with that poet and let them know. At the end of the day, a heartfelt word from an audience member means more than every 10 in the world.
Welcome to Boston! The weather is beautiful, the meteors are…meteoring, and Orientation starts at 6 PM sharp! You can pick up your Festival Pass at the host hotel starting at 2 PM – make sure you get it in time for Cheap Seats, our official opening night show, featuring a truly dazzling all-star lineup that might rival even the Perseids. The whole week is jam-packed with awesome events, and if you don’t want to take my word for it, why not listen to WBUR’s The ARTery, DigBoston, Boston.com, and the Cambridge Chronicle?
I’ve also got one more exciting announcement: for the first time ever, the National Poetry Slam will feature an official pop-up store! Competing poets can drop off their merch to be sold at our Cambridge College location throughout the competition, so if you hear a poem you’ve just got to own, come check it out! A variety of PSi merchandise, including t-shirts and DVDs, will also be on sale.
In less exciting news, two teams have dropped out of the competition at the last minute, leaving us with some 4×3 preliminary bouts. Take a look at the updated bout draw for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and be sure to tune into SlamCenter for analysis of what that all means; you can also listen to our special NPS preview episode, which is out now!
While it’s too late to sign up for a general volunteer position, we are still looking for a few people to join PSi’s videography crew on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s a great way to see Semi-Finals and Finals, and while experience is preferred, training is available for enthusiastic volunteers! Email Mike Henry for more information about this opportunity.
This blog will be going dark for the rest of the week, but the rest of our internet presence is stepping it up. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram to keep up with everything that’s happening, and hashtag all your Nationals thoughts with #nps2013!
Here’s a look at what the Preliminary Competition Venues look like from the outside so you’ll have an idea what to look for…
If you want to hear more about these spots and some what we’re thinking about the Preliminary Bouts over at Slam Center.
We’re going to have a whole host of photographers taking photos so say hello to whomever is in your venue. We’re all about showing off your art. The whole photography team hope to see you guys very soon.
– Rich Beaubien
I know that I’ve spent a lot of time tormenting my fellow NPS 2013 team members with the countdown clock (and, I assume, bringing joy and delight to everyone else), but something about seeing it in the single digits really hit my personal panic button. Nationals is so soon, you guys! Like, next week soon! Like, weather.com says it’s going to be gorgeous soon! Already this week I have sweet-talked a security guard into letting me take pictures of our fourth semi-final venue (which we are announcing this week, I promise! I can tell you now that it is very pretty and 100% wheelchair-accessible) and recorded a special preview episode of SlamCenter with our fearless leader Simone Beaubien, and it’s only Wednesday. This time next week we’ll be at some awesome day events, gearing up for the second night of prelims and the triple-whammy of the Erotica Reading, Decathlon Slam, and Hip-Hop Headquarters that night. Ahhhh!
Other exciting things: in addition to the passes being real and tangible and beautiful, our Festival Guide went to the printer yesterday! We’ve also been blogging on the Somerville Patch website, in case you need even more blog in your life. And to get you extra excited, ads have been going up around Boston faster than ever. The scavenger hunt is still on, our Harvard Square banner is going up today, and someone spotted these posters in the bathroom at OBERON, one of our competition and late-night venues. If you’re a local, send us pictures of the posters in your neighborhood, on your bus, or in your bar bathroom!
For those of you about to make the trek to Boston, I hope you’re planning your schedule on our free Guidebook app, putting the finishing touches on your Finals outfit, and getting as psyched to swim in the hotel pool as we are. See you on opening night!
There are still a few volunteer spots left for the National Poetry Slam! In addition to helping run an amazing event, you’ll receive a volunteer pass that gives you access to every event at NPS Tuesday-Friday (you still have to buy your own Finals ticket, but our eternal gratitude is free!). It’s a great way to attend NPS, help out the community, and save a few bucks. You could be scorekeeping, selling merch, or performing a host of other duties that make Nationals run smoothly. The final day to sign up to volunteer is this Sunday, August 4th, at 5:00pm EST – just fill out the form on the right side of the page and we’ll be in touch!
The countdown clock is a cruel mistress, at least for those of us who are working on the National Poetry Slam and not just anticipating it from afar. But every piece is falling into place, and today’s sigh of relief is that the official MC list for preliminary bouts is now live! Check out who’ll be hosting your bouts on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, or just follow your favorite MC from venue to venue.
And there’s now an easy way to plan out your daily NPS trajectory, thanks to a generous donation by Guidebook. They’re offering unlimited free downloads of a mobile app version of our Festival Guide, which allows you to add events to a customized schedule, and map out the closest poetry to your current location. Download the Guidebook app and then search for National Poetry Slam on your iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, iPad, or Kindle! The app includes most of the information from the print guide, including suggestions for local food – I’d like to jump the gun, however, and suggest that you eat at Dave’s Fresh Pasta and Diesel Cafe, two Somerville businesses who took time out of their busy making-delicious-food schedules to become NPS 2013 sponsors.
If you already know how great Dave’s and Diesel are – that is, if you’re in the greater Boston area – why not participate in the great bus shelter scavenger hunt? There’s a free festival pass in it for you, and maybe even one of the ads themselves, which are even more awesome in person than they are on camera—and psst, if you’re not following us on Instagram yet, do it now! Other ways to follow us (besides Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, of course) include checking out our latest press, which now includes an awesome article on Somerville Patch by our own Kevin Spak and a write-up on bostonnova with some choice quotes from our super-snarky leader, Simone Beaubien. There’s also a new SlamCenter podcast for you to download, all about Sunday’s NorthBEAST regional slam at the Lizard Lounge – which is going to be one of our preliminary competition venues in how many days, again?
This Monday, posters for the National Poetry Slam went up in bus shelters all over Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and they look so pretty. Maybe you’ve seen one already? If not, start looking, because there’s a free festival pass in it for you! The first person to take a photo of themselves in front of six different posters and tag us in them (on either Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram) will be able to pick up their free pass at NPS – or you can take home one of the actual 6.5′x4′ ads themselves (at the end of our advertising run, of course). We’ll save a prize for the runner-up, too, so don’t worry if you’re second in line at the bus station. Anyone with access to our Super Secret Location List is, obviously, ineligible to win. Happy hunting!
Happy Monday, slam fans! Today’s the day our bus shelter ads go up all over Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, so start looking for them if you’re in the area! Send us a picture on Twitter or Facebook when you find one – and who knows, if you photograph more than just a few of them, there may be something in it for you. Mysterious, I know, but all will be revealed in the coming days!
I can reveal quite a few things right now, though – for one, our opening night show is now official! It’s being presented by The Whitehaus Family Record and Cheap Seats at the Cambridge YMCA Theatre, and it promises to be a high-energy, interactive art experience. Telling you more would spoil the magic, so be sure to get there for the 7 PM doors on Monday, August 12th!
If you’re coming from out of town and won’t get here until Tuesday, don’t fret: there will be plenty of awesome poetry events all week! In addition to the late-night events, the day events schedule has just been released, and there’s something for everyone – affinity readings, panel discussions, and a Friday afternoon showcase featuring the lowest-scoring teams in the competition. And yes, this means that we can now start counting down to the Nerd Slam, which will kick off at 10:30 on Friday, August 16th at the Cambridge YMCA. Check out the full schedule of day events and let us know which ones you’re most excited about!
I’m also excited to announce our lineup of youth events, presented by the Mass LEAP Collective and the city of Cambridge. Middle and high school students are invited to attend free workshops and slams on Thursday, August 15th and Friday, August 16th at the Area IV Youth Center – be sure to spread the word to any young poets who might be interested!
That’s it for now, but be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those bus shelter ads! And be sure to bring your chapbooks to NPS; this year, there may be a better way to get them into new hands than swapping merch in the hotel lobby.
Another guest episode, this time from the the San Francisco Bay area. Katelyn Lucas is member of the 2013 Bay Area Unified slam team, co-founder of The Voice Of A Generation, and as you can see from above she’s pretty handy with a camera.
– Until next week
That’s right, the bout draw for the 2013 National Poetry Slam is finally here! Click here to download the PDF, and click here to say thank you to Erik Daniel, the wizard who made this all happen. I can’t pretend to comprehend the math and programming skills that went into this, but I can tell you that bout draw is carefully calculated, it is random, and he understands it better than anyone. If you’re a competing poet, now’s the time to start seriously strategizing – and if you’re coming to see the show, time to plan your Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights based on which teams you want to see and our handy venue map.
Another aspect of NPS you can start planning for now is where you’ll be after the bouts. The late-night schedule is up, and it is awesome. I wish that I had a Time-Turner whenever new events are announced, so I could go to all of them, but this time it’s especially bad. There are four shows a night, all starting at 11 PM, and I want to go to all of them. The SlamMasters Slam vs. the Lit Slam Showcase on Tuesday! Erotica vs. Decathlon on Wednesday! Stand-Up Comedians vs. Funny Slam Poets on Thursday…oh wait, that’s only one show, but it is up against both Hip-Hop Headquarters and the Encyclopedia Show, and I really wish I were Hermione right about now.
I think that at this point most of the NPS 2013 planning teams wishes they were Hermione, since the festival kicks off in less than a month and I keep reminding of that by linking to the countdown clock. A great way to remind them—and everyone you know—that Nationals is coming is to change your Facebook profile picture and banner photo to some of our official art! Snag it from our Facebook page, and be sure to link back to us so everyone knows what it’s all about. While you’re online, why not check out some of our new sponsors (including Realizing Your Creative Life, the MassLEAP Collective, and Gustavus Adolphus College) and follow SlamCenter’s new Twitter account – and then get offline and start looking around Boston for NPS posters and bus shelter ads, which should be going up in the coming days!
Poetry Slam is an equipment-light art form. Stripped down to a poet and the spoken word, it takes very little to present it. It takes a room, most of the time a microphone and some speakers. The stage can be nothing more than an open space carved out by pulling the chairs back, or it can be a raised and well-lit platform on which the poet stands alone to perform. The audience can be seated in neat rows in chairs or at tables; they might be on the floor or standing around the back of a sold-out room.
Heck, at NPS, in the middle of the night after the regular bouts are done, there is still poetry even without the mic. Or the room.
If the primary relationship is that of the poet and the audience, the space still provides some character to the experience. Some spaces embed the poet within the audience and some separate the two. How poets use or bridge that gap is part of the show.
Photographically, venues set the angles we have. They provide (or don’t!) opportunities to shoot from the front, the sides, from above or below the level of the performer, and thus help define the photographs available. These spaces necessarily both shape and create the story that we are trying to tell.
For instance, at the Cantab Lounge, one of our 2013 host venues, the space is defined by the closeness of the audience, by well-worn black walls, and visually by a pipe that often seems to be running right behind the poet’s head. As compared to the Berklee Performance Hall, our finals venue, it is a mess. A close, limited, ill-lit, character-rich, wonderful, welcoming mess. At Berklee’s big, beautiful, real performing hall, the light on the performers is bright, the ISOs are lower, and behind them is basically a wall of nothing. Performers in space.
I’m looking forward to shooting in both of these spaces again this August at NPS. Thanks in part to the success of NPS 2011, we’re also using a lot of new venues this year. While the poets and the audience create new performances there, I’ll also be looking forward to what our photo team comes up with in all of them.
Below are some more shots from some of the venues that we’re using again this year…
So a little birdie told me that bout draw is not too far away! This means that soon we’ll know which teams are competing in which venues for the preliminary rounds of NPS, taking place on August 13, 14, and 15. And it’s quite possible that bout MC assignments will appear along with the draw, giving teams a whole lot of information to strategize with. And which teams, you ask? Well, it’s official: there are 72 teams registered for the 2013 National Poetry Slam! They’re from as close as Boston and as far away as Hawaii, and every single one of them is going to bring a unique point of view to the competition.
Speaking of unique, Chad Anderson has created what I believe to be the first National Poetry Slam fan art/meme of the season, if not of all time. It is Game of Thrones themed and it is awesome. If you’ve created any NPS-related art and want some credit, email me and I’ll share it with the world—and if this inspires you to make some slam-themed memes, that’s even better.
In more practical news, Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant and Music Club is the first of our preliminary venues to begin offering advance tickets for NPS events! They’ll be hosting prelim bouts on all three nights, as well as a late-night Encyclopedia Show on the 15th. If you aren’t a competing poet or buying a Festival Pass, get your tickets now! More venues will be rolling out advance ticketing in the coming days and weeks, so follow our Facebook and Twitter if you want to know when those go on sale.
Lastly, I’m very happy to announce that we’re partnering with Guidebook to provide you with a mobile, interactive version of this year’s festival guide! They have very generously donated unlimited free downloads of an exclusive app that will let you know where and when every NPS event is taking place. There will still be a printed copy, but if you’ve got a smartphone, Guidebook is the way to go, and I am excited excited excited about it!
Tonight we have guest appearance by Louder than a Bomb and NPS photographer Jeff Tamagini….
Poetry is all about emotion. It’s raw, captivating and powerful. The old saying is a picture is worth a thousand words, but how do you convey the rawness of the emotion from a poet. Well that is when it is all about the motion.
– Until next week
Happy July, poetry fans! Nationals is officially next month, there are 1000 of you following us on Facebook, and almost all of our venues are now confirmed! In addition to the previously announced Lizard Lounge, Cantab Lounge, Davis Square Theater, YMCA Theater, and Middle East Rock Club (as well as Finals at the Berklee Performance Center, of course), I can now tell you that bouts will be taking place at Lesley University’s Marran Theater, Club Oberon, and Johnny D’s Uptown Restaurant and Music Club. All of these venues are in Cambridge or Somerville and accessible from the MBTA’s Red Line, and we expect advance tickets for venues who offer them to be on sale soon.
Tickets for Finals are available now, so be sure to buy yours today if you’re not planning to snap up a Festival Pass! If you’re a competing poet, disregard this message: your poet pass will get you into every NPS event. Popular bouts can sell out early, though, so make sure you arrive in time to snag a good seat.
Like the rest of our planning team, the SlamCenter crew is hard at work. They’ve just released a recap of last Wednesday’s 4×4 NorthBEAST regional slam at the Cantab, where teams from Portland, Lowell, and Manchester faced off against the home squad. To find out how it all went down, download the podcast now! If you want to see a regional bout for yourself, and you’re in the New England area, you’re in luck: tonight in Portland, teams from the Cantab, Lizard Lounge, and Manchester take on Port Veritas on their home turf. And for those of you from farther afield, don’t despair: Nationals is closer than ever!
Having worked many a poetic event I find myself looking for ‘extracurricular subjects’ during the performances. Occasionally I take photos of footwear…
Now I’ve been asking around for contributions to this series when San Francisco formalist poet Artie Moffa suggested poet footwear photos so you can imagine my chuckle when I realized I wasn’t the only one. Here’s a few of Artie’s wonderful captures.
– Until next week
PS Want to contribute? Drop me a line.
On Friday, the NPS 2013 team got together for our monthly meeting, and once again came out the other side as friends – no one even yelled at me about my countdown clock! A lot of what we discussed at that meeting is still under wraps, and I feel bad about how much I’ve overused the word “exciting” in this blog, because now I can’t use it to communicate how outstandingly thrilling some of what we’ve got planned is. I’m not authorized to drop any hints just yet, but I expect to see a lot of minds blown in the coming month.
Also, in case you missed it, our first posters have arrived! If you live in Boston, Cambridge, or Somerville, be on the lookout for them, and send us a picture if you see one up in your favorite coffee shop. And if you have a favorite coffee shop (or bookstore, or bar, or—) that would look so much better with one of these beauties on the wall, get in touch with Jamei, our street team leader. In general, if you’re in the greater Boston area, have a couple hours to spare, and want to get the community as excited about NPS as we are, let us know! And if you’ve got a couple free hours this Wednesday night, there’s a NorthBEAST regional at the Cantab that you should not miss – teams from Portland, Manchester, and Lowell will be facing off against the home squad in a Nationals-style 4×4 slam.
Another thing you should not miss: the deadline to reserve rooms at the discounted rate at our host hotel! It’s not until July 29th, but if you’re a SlamMaster or competing poet, we encourage you to book as soon as possible. Everything from registration and orientation to some awesome side events will be happening there, so it really is the place to be – and have I mentioned recently that it looks like a lit-up ziggurat? Or that I am super super excited to see all your lovely faces arriving there in August?
At this point I’ve been informed by most of the NPS 2013 team that they do not like my countdown clock, but I’m going to keep linking to it because I am a) stubborn, and b) excited about how soon we get to host what I am already sure will be the best National Poetry Slam of all time. There are, however, still some details we need to finalize before this all kicks off, and we’ve been getting a lot of messages about one of those details in particular: advance ticketing for Semi-Finals and Finals. This is great, because it means other people are as psyched as I am about events that are still 60+ days away, but also not great, because we don’t have those tickets available for purchase yet. What I can tell you is that Finals tickets will go on sale in mid-July, and we’ll announce it on Facebook and Twitter as soon as that happens. As for Semi-Finals, we’re still working with our venues to determine which, if any, will offer advance ticketing as an option; again, if you’re following NPS on social media, you’ll be the first to know when that happens! For now, you can check out a price guide to our various events or find out about purchasing a Festival Pass, which are on sale now.
“But I don’t want to buy tickets,” you say, “I want to be involved behind the scenes, like Cassandra, who is so awesome!” Well, you’re in luck, because there’s still time to sign up to volunteer for a variety of tasks both leading up to NPS and at the competition itself. If you’ve already submitted your email through our handy sidebar, you should have been contacted over the weekend by our volunteer coordinator, Megan Thoma (if you weren’t, email her to let her know!) – if you haven’t signed up yet, what are you waiting for? There’s no experience required for a lot of these positions, and you might get to see some bouts for free! If you’ve got oodles of experience, and you want to share that with us in Boston (and Cambridge and Somerville), PSi is looking for people to MC and bout manage throughout Nationals.
That’s all for now, folks – if you’re itching for more reading material, may I suggest our Tumblr? We post quotes about writing, excerpts from poems, poetry slam videos, and all kinds of other content to get you inspired, and my self-esteem is directly linked to how many people follow us, so check it out!
The local scene here in the greater Boston area has some pretty powerful women representing. Luckily I’ve been around to capture it.
All of these photos are from 2008. Ancient history in many ways.
– Until next week
As of this morning, 70 teams are now officially registered for NPS 2013! Check out the full list (plus the five waitlisted teams) on PSi’s Facebook page. And if you run a registered or certified venue that is not currently on that list, don’t despair – there are still spots left! Email Karrie Waarala, PSi’s executive director, to find out about your options. We can’t wait to see you all in Boston!
Now that you’re registered, when should you get to Boston? We’ve got that covered. Registration & Orientation times have been confirmed: Registration (when your paperwork must be handed in) will take place on Monday, August 12 from 2 – 5 PM and Tuesday, August 13 from 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM. Orientation will take place on Monday, August 12 from 6 – 7 PM and Tuesday, August 13 from 3:30 – 4:30 PM; you only need to attend one of those sessions, but keep in mind that your entire team must be present! Both Registration & Orientation will take place at our host hotel, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge. If you’re not a competitor, and just want to pick up one of your fancy Festival Passes, you can also do that at the host hotel, from 2 – 7 PM on Monday, August 12 and 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM on Tuesday, August 13.
In addition to all this, our website is getting bigger and better! You can check out all the venue information in one place (and watch for updates!), and potential sponsors can now download our information packet directly. Shoutout — and thanks — to our most recent sponsor, at the Bukowski level, Bawell Water Ionizers, who are currently winning the prize for “sponsor with the best animation of water drops on their website.” And a shoutout to our Facebook fans – there are 900 of you now, which I’m pretty excited about. Take a second to like our page if you haven’t, and invite your friends if you have – it’s a great way to stay updated on NPS and connect with other poets!
The plans for NPS 2013 are quickly taking shape, and I’m pleased to announce that we’re in the midst of finalizing the list of side events for this August! After a number of constructive slam family discussions, the following affinity readings will return to Boston: African-American, Latino/a, Twelve Tribes, AAPI, and QILTBAG (queer) Readings. It’s our hope that these readings will build and strengthen community ties and be an opportunity for poets to share both their work and their experiences.
We’ve got a whole host of other side readings planned as well, and I’m sharing the (incomplete!) list here so you can start getting psyched along with me:
NPS Welcome Open Mic
The SlamMasters Slam
The Encyclopedia Show
The Decathlon Slam
Stand Up Comedy and Comedic Poetry
Volunteer Open Mic
Rookie Open Mic
The Mommas and the Poppas Reading
Grief and Remembrance
Best Losers Showcase
American Sign Language Showcase
Box of Doom Slam
Head to Head Haiku Slam (2 days of prelims, 1 day of finals)
Workshop: Tips from the Bar
Workshop: Touring in Europe
Workshopping the Workshop: Professional Development
Workshop/Safe Space: Using Shock Value for Good
Workshop/Safe Space: Being a Better Ally
If you don’t see your reading, don’t fret – this isn’t the final lineup. But if you’re concerned, feel free to email our day events coordinator, Adam Stone, who’s working on the schedule – and once that’s announced, you can bet I’m making a countdown clock specifically for the Nerd Slam.
I’d also like to take a minute to thank our sponsors so far: Berklee College of Music, whose Performance Center will play host to Finals; Metis Communications, who have donated their press services; and the Cambridge Arts Council, who are providing us with local assistance. If you’d like to become a sponsor (and find out about all the sweet perks that come along with that), click here for the details – and if you just want to make me happy, click here to like our Facebook page.
Over the last two days the NPS photography crew has been photographing a young people’s poetry festival. Louder Than a Bomb – Massachusetts is based upon an original 2001 idea by Kevin Coval and Anna West of the nonprofit organization Young Chicago Authors. The Bay State’s version gathers youth from all around Massachusetts to share their stories and listen to the voices from other parts of the state. It’s been an amazing couple of days.
Watch out – these kids will be appearing at a venue near you in the next few years.
–Until next week
With NPS 2013 getting closer and closer, some deadlines are also fast approaching – specifically, the deadline to register your venue! Registration closes on June 1st, and so far 44 teams are paid in full. Please note that a successful registration does not guarantee that your team will compete at NPS; a number of factors go into determining that, including Win & You’re In rankings, the venue’s certification standing, and representation at the spring SlamMasters meeting. PSi will release an official roster of competing teams, plus a waitlist, soon after registration closes. For now, you can check out a list of venues who have already registered on our Facebook page.
One thing I can officially announce now is that we have secured some great competition venues (and are finalizing even more). You may remember that Finals will be taking place in the Berklee Performance Center, just like in 2011, but I’m now cleared to let you know that there will be preliminary bouts at the Lizard Lounge, the Cantab Lounge Upstairs, and the Davis Square Theater, and semifinal bouts at the YMCA Theater and the Middle East Down, which will also host group piece finals. We’re very close to confirming some more great spaces, so stay tuned!
Want to get involved with all this? The closer NPS 2013 gets, the more specific our volunteer needs become. While you can still get your name on the general volunteer list by filling out the form on the right-hand side of this page, our volunteer coordinator Megan Thoma would especially love to hear from anyone affiliated with MIT or with direct connections to a Red Line-accessible, 200+ capacity venue. We’re also looking for experienced sound engineers who can work during NPS – if that sounds like you, get in touch! After all, we’re all in this together.
Please accept my apology re: how late this blog post is. As some of you know, I’m in graduate school; as all of you know, it’s been a rough few weeks in Boston. Our host city director Simone Beaubien and Boston Poetry Slam expatriate Brian S. Ellis have already written about the events of April 15th more thoughtfully than I could hope to, so I’m just going to wait here for a minute while you read their posts.
Back? Good, because Boston needs poetry now more than ever, and we’re going full steam ahead with our plans for the National Poetry Slam. If you’ve been following our Facebook and Twitter, you know that festival passes are now on sale: you can read all about the different options here, and buy one in the PSi store.
If you’re planning to compete, not spectate, there’s news for you too: we’ve contracted with the Hyatt Regency Cambridge to be our official host hotel for NPS 2013. You may remember it as the overflow hotel from Nationals in 2011; you may also remember that we needed an overflow hotel because the reserved block of rooms in the host hotel sold out by early July. Teams, you should aim to book your rooms as soon as possible, since registration and orientation will take place there, as well as all kinds of shenanigans in the 24-hour meeting space we’ve secured as a poets’ room. Also, it kind of looks like a ziggurat.
We’ve also got a new episode of SlamCenter for you, in which we cover a number of semi-final and final team selection slams in the NorthBEAST region. It’s now available to download on iTunes, so you can marvel at my lack of eloquence on the go! With fewer than 100 days to go until NPS 2013 officially kicks off, it seems like everyone’s preparing for the big event. Let us know if your local slam makes the news, and stay tuned for some more announcements (hint hint venues) in the coming days and weeks.
As you are no doubt aware, it has been an extreme and trying week for all of us here in the greater Boston area. Although I am relieved to say that our immediate community remains unbroken, the bombings at the Boston Marathon have left all of us shaken, unnerved, and struggling to regain our sense of security here in the city. Although we frequently talk about how best to make our slam space safe from negative speech, it is rare that we are given cause to worry for our physical safety. We are grateful to have survived this tragedy, and to be given the opportunity for perspective and growth as we move to return to our daily lives.
I am also very grateful to have this platform from which to thank everyone who reached out to support your fellow poetry community here in Boston. I know that we are experiencing only a fraction of the compassion and good wishes that have been directed the city’s way, and the kindness of our slam family has been tremendous. Thank you so much for your emails, texts, calls, Facebook posts, tweets, and positive energy.
Many folks have contacted to ask us how they can help the survivors and their families. As in any managed disaster, the most flexible and efficient donation you can give is cash: we recommend donations to The One Fund, a non-profit founded by the Massachusetts governor and Boston mayor specifically to reach those affected by the bombing. The Huffington Post has also gathered a selection of ways to donate directly to some of the families who have experienced loss. In addition, you can donate blood on a local level any time to help the many people who are in need each day; even if you are deferred from donation, you can consider hosting a blood drive for others to donate.
Some folks have also asked how they can help our poetry community during this difficult time. We deeply appreciate your continued support and good wishes, and ask only that you keep us in your hearts when spreading positive thoughts about the upcoming National Poetry Slam in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville.
Which leads us to the next concern to address: yes, the show will go on in Boston this August! After Governor Patrick’s assertion that “Next year’s Marathon will be even bigger and better,” we are confident that the city will support our efforts to bring the National Poetry Slam back to Boston. As a long-time arts organizer and working artist, I strongly believe in art’s ability to heal, not only with stories of survival and empathy, but also through continuing to create and share —and, yes, entertain —even in difficult times.
Our entire community offers our thanks to you for helping us heal, move forward, and continue to make art. I look forward to welcoming each and every one of you at the 2013 National Poetry Slam this summer.
Host City Director, 2013 National Poetry Slam
SlamMaster, Boston Poetry Slam
In Boston we have a number of Spring heralds letting us know it’s on the way, first via the calendar, Easter arrives in there somewhere, the Red Sox home opener, and then Patriot’s Day – commemorating the anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War in Lexington and Concord. Jane Franklin in a letter to her brother Benjamin wrote about how terrifying it was to hear in Boston about the shooting in Lexington and Concord. “The distress it has occasioned is past my description,” she wrote.
We observe Patriot’s Day on the third Monday in April. Many Bostonians know the holiday as “Marathon Monday”. The weekend is an international affair with runners and visitors from all over the world. But is very much a family holiday from Hopkinton all 26.2 miles to the finish line in Boston’s Bay Back neighborhood.
When bystanders to this weeks attack ran toward the first blast, and never flinched as the second blast went off, the terrorists lost. Author Dennis Lehane said it best, “We’ve been here a long time. You’re not going to change us. Boston’s always been kind of a contrarian city. It’s always been an iconoclastic city and it’s always been a city with a deep love and respect for civil discourse and civil liberties. And so if you think we’re going to suspend any of those because two very harebrained brothers decided to roll a couple of bombs into a marathon, then the sentiment was you got another thing coming. You confused us with another city.”
Yes our sense of security is a bit in tatters right about now. But I hope you don’t think this changes anything, do you? Terrorists cannot terrorize this city. We won’t cancel next year’s marathon nor are we going to cancel the National Poetry Slam.
Now, even more than ever, Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are thrilled to be welcoming the wonderful, albeit crazy, slam family to our irrepressible city. We are looking forward to seeing you in August. We have never been so Bostonian as we were this week so four months from now come and help us celebrate poetry at its best.
– Until next week.
Collaboration across artistic mediums – one poet, another a photographer. Collaboration is a thing that cannot be produced by either of the parties working alone. Brian Eno once said about his collaboration with Bowie, “Every collaboration helps you grow.”
This just behind the Old North Church in Boston’s North End. It is most famous for signaling Paul Revere. Behind the church in the courtyard is the Dog Tag Memorial – six posts set in a gentle curve, dogtags hung on chains, and a pretty planting of flowers at the base. A remembrance for fallen American soldiers. Each dogtag representing a fallen soldier in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. When the wind blows, the tags make an eerie chiming sound.
Here’s Paulie Lipman’s poem and interpretation of my work…
Letting someone explain a photo without my interpretation is similar to a song, once it’s out there someone can take it on as their own, then I can grow.
– Until next week.
Happy National Poetry Month, everyone! Doesn’t the air just feel different? Aren’t you enjoying having strangers stop you on the street to thank you for your poetic contribution to society?
Ok, so maybe it’s plain old April for most of the world, but I do have a few exciting things to mention. First off, in honor of the month, I’m posting a poetry video to our Facebook every single day. So far I’ve featured Jack McCarthy, Rachel McKibbens, and Regie Gibson, to name a few, so head over and like our page if you want to see who’s up next!
In more practical news (for those of you who run venues), I’m happy to announce that registration for the National Poetry Slam is now open! To register your team (and to check out all the dates, fees, and logistics), click here for the official PSi writeup. The most exciting part of this announcement is that NPS 2013 is 18+ for all registered competitors! While some late-night events will still be 21+ (blame the Puritans), our fantastic team has found enough prelim venues that allow underage performers to officially expand the age limit. Please note that this does not absolve you from informing PSi that you have an under-21 team member — there’s a hard deadline of July 1st on that.
Registration! Logistics! NPS 2013 is starting to feel like a real thing that’s happening, and not just an event someone invented so I could run social media about it. I’m getting warm fuzzies thinking about how much fun 2011 was, and how excited I am to welcome everyone back this August – which is closer than it seems!
Mostly slam poets recite their work. They perform it. But with new work or work in progress many poets will read the new piece off the page. Occasionally it’s just something that is an older work, that they cannot remember well enough, so they read it.
I’m not much into smart phones. I’m the kind of guy that still uses maps. And I love to print photographs. As an old school photographer (50 years with a camera) there’s something very satisfying about holding a photograph in my hands. Somehow digital photos feel like unfinished goods. There’s a tactile richness of a developed image. I feel the print is a way to value my work, to take it beyond its digital, transient state. There is something sacred about having a photograph in print form.
When I see a poet reading off the page it becomes graphic. There’s a tactile richness of ink, or pencil, on the page. I can see the edits through the translucent page I can see the craft. There’s a tactile richness. It’s not transient it’s fixed onto the page. There is something sacred about having a poem in print form.
Where you can dwell on (or in) a photograph, poetry like music is ephemeral, it exists only for the moment of comprehension. Photography and poetry are different but equally powerful stuff.
–Until next week
You know what that means – a plethora of shows and slams, and probably at least one much-maligned blog post proclaiming poetry to be “dead” or “irrelevant” or “an alien plot to take over America.” If you want to prove that hypothetical blogger wrong, and that hypothetical blogger lives in the greater Boston area, there are some great shows coming up in April, including the season finale of the Encyclopedia Show Somerville (on the subject of Mythical Beasts) and Boston Poetry Slam features by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Marty McConnell, and more.
For our fans from further afield, I was going to compile a list of ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, but it turns out that the Academy of American Poets (who initiated National Poetry Month back in 1996) already made one, and theirs is way better. One suggestion I’d especially like to highlight is “Write a letter to a poet,” and I’d like to expand that to a more general recommendation to compliment a poet. It doesn’t have to be effusive or calligraphied; a Facebook message or a “hey, I really liked that” after the slam can still make someone smile. If the Academy of American Poets list isn’t doing it for you, though, I have one more suggestion: support your local slam! Bring friends who’ve never been to one before. Force them to judge. Profit.
Speaking of slam, the latest SlamCenter podcast went up over the weekend, so check it out if you’d like to hear a detailed analysis of the Boston Poetry Slam team selection finals, me rambling semi-coherently, or the much more eloquent words of Kevin Spak, Zeke Russell, and Joe Stohlman. There will be more of these in the coming weeks, as local venues continue choose their teams for the National Poetry Slam, so keep up with our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr if you want to hear all about it!
Tonight is our first guest appearance by fellow Cantab and NPS 2013 Photographer Marshall Goff…
There are usually three things that happen after poets are introduced and called to the stage.
The first is simple: they come to the stage and adjust the microphone to the height they want it.
Then the applause dies down. There may be something called out from the audience — a friendly joke about what the poet is wearing, or maybe just a shout of encouragement. The poet may laugh, point at someone in the audience, or share a joke back. More often though, they say nothing.
And then, there is a moment where most poets pause. For some, it’s short – engaging the clutch briefly while switching gears at speed. Others slow down, shut out the audience, and gather energy or focus on what they are about to put themselves through.
I’ve seen poets turn completely away from the room. Many of them shut their eyes. Others just look away and then back, then begin.
A lot of the time, I don’t take this picture. In a public performance, this is a very personal moment. It is also frequently the quietest the room gets. The small sound of the camera as the mirror slaps out of the way of the shutter seems louder and more intrusive in the anticipatory silence. I can’t successfully shoot a slam and be entirely unnoticed, but neither do I want to distract the audience or the performer.
And yet, when I am shooting at slams, I am always seeking gestures or expressions that show us something about the poet or the performance. So just as I am drawn to grander gestures, I am also drawn to this quiet moment.
– Until next week.
One of the fascinating aspects of the poetry scene around this town is not in the public venues for performance where the work is well polished but what can happen in someone’s apartment. Often a diverse group comes together, the location is never published and invites happen via word-of-mouth through a network of friends. Sometimes there’s music. There’s always good drink, tasty food, and varied conversation – always spoken word. Sometimes new unfinished or rough beginning pieces are presented (which gets reworked after it is vocalized). It’s an important place for the exchange of ideas, inspiration, and a safe environment to stumble.
– Until next week.
On Wednesday night, the Boston Poetry Slam held a highly competitive team selection finals. The three-round slam was anyone’s game, and at the end of the evening there was only a 3.6 point divide between the highest and lowest score. Chosen by five probably drunk people in a bar, the 2013 National Poetry Slam home team is Sean Patrick Mulroy, Nora Meiners, Jade Sylvan, Omoizele Okoawo, and the people’s champion, Ed Wilkinson. If you’re curious about how it all went down, watch for the next SlamCenter podcast, where I’ll be joining Kevin Spak and Zeke Russell to recap the whole night.
Things are heating up all over NorthBEAST; on Friday the 22nd, Manchester is hosting a Win & You’re In slam featuring teams from Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The top four teams will be guaranteed a spot in the National Poetry Slam, so expect some fierce competition.
If all these states sound like alien locations to you and you’re still trying to figure out what this “Boston, Cambridge and Somerville” business is about, head over to our Facebook page, where local poets are sharing their favorite things to do in the city – be sure to add your own if you’re a native! If you’re coming from out of town this August for NPS, I’d recommend taking a stroll along the Charles (now significantly cleaner!), visiting the Public Garden (the Make Way For Ducklings statue is my favorite), and walking the entire Freedom Trail (because I am a huge nerd). And if you’re more of an “indoor kid,” the Boston area is home to a number of wonderful independent bookstores, including the poetry-only Grolier. Just don’t hold me responsible if you get caught up reading and miss your bouts!
Patricia Smith & Michael Brown are the founders of the Boston Poetry Slam. In 1992 they moved their fledgling into the Cantab Lounge. This past October the Boston Poetry Slam, the fourth oldest running slam in the country, celebrated its 20th anniversary downstairs at the Cantab. This venerable institution hosts the home team for the 2013 National Poetry Slam.
– Until next week.
That’s right, I am now authorized to tell you exactly when the 2013 National Poetry Slam will take place! Preliminary bouts kick off on Tuesday, August 13th, and the competition continues until Finals on Saturday the 17th. Why so late this year? We didn’t want to conflict with Brave New Voices, the youth poetry festival taking place in Chicago on August 7th-11th, and we were also working with some great local venues to make sure this year’s event is as awesome as possible — more on that in the coming weeks. Buy your plane tickets now, because if you learned one thing in 2011, it was how much you do not want to drive in Boston. I have been driving through the same roundabout by my apartment for a year and a half and I still don’t understand how its right-of-way rules work. Trust me, you’ll be much happier with a 7-day MBTA pass.
As exciting as being able to start the countdown to NPS is, I was almost as thrilled to listen to the first episode of the SlamCenter podcast. This is the brainchild of Kevin Spak, co-hosted by Zeke Russell and recorded by Andy Locke and Tom Dodson, and it’s a fun yet analytical recap of semi-finals at the Boston Poetry Slam, complete with excerpts of poems and post-slam interviews. If you’ve ever spent a long drive home rehashing the slam you just saw, this is a more structured (and diplomatic) version of that conversation; it reminded me of the days when Hampshire College sent a van to the Cantab every week, and I can’t wait for more. Kevin and company will be taking their coverage to team selection slams around NorthBEAST (the loose conglomerate of New England venues)– and, of course, to the National Poetry Slam, where they’ll put together a new episode every night.
If that’s not enough to get you pumped for Nationals, let me direct you one more time to our Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and if you need a break from poetry, this video of a guy making friends with a wombat. (Dear Australian slam poets: if you’re coming to Boston and don’t mind breaking some international wild animal transport laws, get in touch.)
We start off this series of weekly Sunday evening photos in an appropriate way with a quick look back at some views inside the early bout venues. Make sure you click on an image to see them larger.
– Until next week.
Hello poets! I know we keep harping on how excited we are for the National Poetry Slam to come back to Boston, but that’s because we are so excited for the National Poetry Slam to come back to Boston. And Cambridge, and Somerville: for those of you from not-around-here, those are separate but directly adjacent and public-transport-accessible municipalities, best known for being the home of Harvard and MIT (Cambridge) and the birthplace of marshmallow fluff (Somerville – unfortunately NPS does not overlap with the fluff festival).
We’re still not quite sure what NPS does overlap with, for those of you who have been asking for dates. We’re working with local venues to make sure you have the best possible experience attending and performing at Nationals, and not everything is finalized just yet. Rest assured that as soon as we have dates to announce, we will announce them! They’ll be posted here, and on Facebook, and Twitter, and probably Tumblr as well.
Speaking of all that social media, I would be so pleased if you took a minute to like, follow, or share some of it! Our Facebook page just launched last week, and I think it’s going to be a great place to discuss poetry, community, and, yes, how excited everyone is for #nps2013, the official hashtag I hope you are all using.
If you live in the greater Boston area and can’t wait for August to get involved with NPS, I have good news: we need volunteers not just for the week of competition, but for the months leading up to it. You can fill out our super-short volunteer form or email our volunteer coordinator, Megan Thoma, to get started. We’re looking for everything from venue connections to copy editors to street team members, so if you think you have something to offer, you probably do! Even a few hours of your time can be a huge help to us.
If you’ve got any questions that can’t be answered by our FAQ, feel free to contact the appropriate member of our team! If we can answer your question, we will, and if we can’t, we’ll work on it until we can, unless you have sent us calculus problems (please don’t send us calculus problems).
Have I mentioned that we’re excited yet?
Cassandra de Alba
Social Media Lead, NPS 2013
Happy February, National Poetry Slam fans!
As the Director of the 2013 National Poetry Slam Host City Committee, I am really excited to be welcoming the National Poetry Slam back home to the Boston area. As previous visitors to NPS already know, it’s pretty rare for the “super bowl of poetry” to land in the same city twice in three years. But if you were one of the 8,000-plus spectators at the 90-plus shows at NPS 2011, then bringing this five-day extravaganza of competitions, showcases, workshops and featured events back to this poetry-minded, art-loving, highly tourable city seems only natural. I am looking forward to bringing an even bigger and better festival to our audience this year.
I am especially proud to announce that all of our top local staff from the successful 2011 event have decided to continue working together for 2013. You can check out this mighty veteran team by clicking on the Contact Us link above. If you’ve got skills or resources to offer, I encourage you to reach out to the department that appeals to you most. If you just know you want to be involved, but don’t yet know how, go ahead and put your name and email in the boxes on the right of this page! That’s our volunteer form, and it leads straight to our two-time Volunteer Coordinator, Megan Thoma.
It’s also great to welcome a few new faces to the crowd. I hope we’ll get to profile everyone here on this blog, but for now, I’d like to introduce you to the person who is about to become the voice of these updates: Cassandra de Alba, who’ll be filling the brand-new position of Social Media Lead. In addition to blogging here, Cassandra will be helping to manage our Facebook page and Twitter account (that’s #nps2013, by the way), as well as continuing the bang-up job she’s doing over at tumblr. Welcome aboard, Cassandra!
I hope you folks reading will bookmark this blog and check back every week or so for informational updates. News happens very fast around here, and in just the next four weeks I’m looking forward to announcing our August dates, releasing our press kit and nailing down some fabulous venues for you folks to keep your eyes on. Cassandra will keep you all in the loop, plus help guide you on how to volunteer, attend, and enjoy NPS 2013 in just a few short months.
Looking forward to seeing everyone here! Now: back to work…
The Boston Poetry Slam is pleased to announce the return of the National Poetry Slam to greater Boston! After the unprecedented success of the locally-hosted 2011 National Poetry Slam, our all-star organizational team will bring the week-long event back to the area in August of 2013.
Want to get involved? Our non-profit organization is actively seeking:
- Performance venues for our competitions, open mics, and workshops
- Sponsors to provide in-kind or financial assistance
- Volunteers to assist with design work, promotion, and development
Details on the festival are available via the menu links above, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions.
We look forward to welcoming you back to the National Poetry Slam here in Beantown. See you soon!