by Alice Shindelar, photos by Cole Sarar
The slam season came to a close in the Twin Cities these last two weeks with the Minneapolis SlamMN and St. Paul Soapboxing finals. After St. Paul’s win at the National Poetry Slam in West Palm Beach, Florida last year, the race for team placement was bloody, poetically speaking. This was my first season as a regular slam goer. I rarely missed a show, and while I haven’t been going to slams long enough to witness this myself, it is evident from what I caught in 2008 and what I hear amongst the seasoned poets, that both cities slams have significantly increased in popularity and begun to diversify since St. Paul’s victory. Sitting room has been hard to find, poets have had to show-up early and often to get a place in the line up, new faces have shown up at almost every slam, and countless doubtful have become true slam addicts, jamming poetry into their veins with the rest of us. The Twin Cities even added an additional slam this year, Punch Out Poetry a.k.a. POP, an all woman’s slam at Peach Artspace in downtown St. Paul.
SlamMN finalists, Syd Malicious, Shane Hawley, Sam Cook, Wonder Dave, EZRA, Cynthia French, Miles, and 6 is 9 took the stage at the new Kieran’s Irish Pub in Block E last week. Kieran’s finals proved how much increased interest in our slam community has diversified our stage and pushed poets to up their game. From Syd with her consistent use of metaphor and strong imagery, to Shane with his tried and true pop culture romancing, to Sam Cook and his midwest brouhaha, to Wonder Dave with his fluid theatrics, to EZRA with his unfailing ability to alienate and woo a crowd at the same time, to Cynthia who never fails to bring the dirty fun, to Miles who reminds us to shake off the stereotypes we’ve learned to shade our eyes from, to 6 is 9 with all new material, the SlamMN finals didn’t hold a boring moment. Some of my favorite poems of the night included a poem by Cynthia French about getting it on old school style in a chat room back before any of that modern web cam crap when woman could be sexy in over-sized stained t-shirts and men had 12 inch boners just because their keyboards said so, a piece by 6 is 9 about the notable skew towards black people voters who voted in favor of prop 8 that had the crowd cheering and crying and jumping out of their seats, and a piece by Shane Hawley that succeeded in portraying Wile E. Coyote as the unsung hero of so many losing battles. At the end of the night the top four poets were guaranteed spots on SlamMN’s team. They included Shane Hawley, Sam Cook, Cynthia French, and 6 is 9, with Ezra coming in fifth, followed by Wonder Dave, Miles, and Syd. But, as three of the qualifying poets were still to compete in the Soapboxing slam, the team was not yet determined.
The following Monday, Sierra DeMulder, 6 is 9, Sam Cook, Shane Hawley, Dylan Garity, Michael Lee, Guante, and Wonder Dave took the stage at the Artist Quarter’s Grand Slam. Cole Sarar a.k.a. Inky pointed out to me that she was impressed by the trends in subject matter during the first round of this slam. Guante, Wonder Dave, Sam Cook, and Michael Lee all brought poems that worked to redefine masculinity in content and performance. Guante started the night out with a poem about men who try to squeeze their insecurities out onto the strangers they meet with finger crushing handshakes that left the crowd roaring for more. In addition, Wonder Dave brought out a poem about a young boy battered and eventually murdered when he dared to be too feminine and wore make-up to school, Sam Cook addressed the violence passed down in a father-son relationship by evoking everyone’s childhood favorite Where the Wild Things Are, and Michael Lee impressed the crowd by knowing way too much about designer purses for a tattooed roughing-it poet. Dylan Garity won my heart with two new pieces, my favorite of which was a hilarious piece depicting everyone’s favorite comic book heros in pornographic scenes. At the end of the night Sierra DeMulder, Guante, Sam Cook, Shane Hawley, and 6 is 9 qualified for the St. Paul team.
Now that the poets who qualified for both teams have made their decisions the two teams will be Cynthia French, EZRA, Wonder Dave, and Miles representing Minneapolis SlamMN and Guante, 6 is 9, Sierra DeMulder, Sam Cook, and Shane Hawley representing St. Paul Soapboxing. Our slam scene is unique, in that the slams of our neighboring cities are almost completely intermingled, almost all poets from both cities compete in both slams. This gives us all more opportunity to perform and makes both stages equally entertaining and challenging for the poets. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul have grown over the last year in the wake of St. Paul’s win and now they’re whet-stoning their writing utensils in preparation for a battle on their home turf. In the end, we have two very strong teams with the ability to both dominate at nationals. My only disappointment is that I would have like to see more woman in both teams finals, out of 13 poets competing over all, only three were woman. Thanks to the powerful, dedicated poets, new and old alike though, we now have our all woman slam, POP, which will hopefully help to foster a productive environment for woman to march up the ranks in both cities. Don’t miss POP finals at the end of May!