~From English Department Communications Intern Kaitlyn Phillips
On the final Sunday of any given month you can walk into Avogadro’s Number, a small restaurant and venue here in Fort Collins, and find a collection of people talking and shouting and laughing, many nervously clutching notebooks or writing furiously in a corner. If you look to the stage, you’ll see a nervous poet, ready to speak, and five audience members holding up whiteboards bearing a number between 1 and 10.
This odd and glorious spectacle is known as Slam-o-gadros. For those who don’t know, a poetry slam is essentially a competition between poets, where judges are randomly selected from the audience to give each poet a score from 1 to 10; this continues for three rounds, and the last poet standing with the highest score in the third round is the winner.
This past Sunday was a particularly special slam; it marked the second year the event has been taking place, and was thus celebrated as a birthday party — including bubbles, birthday hats, a performance from featured poet Emryse Geye, and, of course, the poetry slam itself.
The excitement was palpable as Chris Vonjanack took the stage to introduce the night’s featured poet, Emryse Geye. She double majored in chemistry and biology as an undergraduate student, is Italian in origin, and is wonderfully quirky; all of this shines through brilliantly in her poetry. From poems that contained expertly crafted extended metaphors about thermodynamics and romantic relationships to lovingly written pieces about her “Nona,” Geye kept the audience cast under her spell from the moment she took the stage to the moment she walked off.
Next up was, of course, the poetry slam itself. As new poets and familiar faces took the stage to read their hearts out, the audience cheered and applauded in unwavering support. Not many people know of the thriving slam poetry community in Fort Collins; it truly is an interconnected network of people who care about poetry and care about each other.
And so, in honor of Slam-o-gadro’s second birthday, and in the hopes that many more people will join the amazing slam community we’ve built here, I’ve compiled five tips for first time slammers; more specifically, Five Things I Wish Someone Would’ve Told Me Before I Got Up on Stage at My First Poetry Slam.
- Have at Least 3 Poems Prepared
As previously stated, poetry slams involve three rounds of poets, normally about 10 or 15 in the first round, about 5 in the second and three in the last. If you make it to the second or third round, you’ll want to be prepared with a new piece that you’re comfortable reading aloud.
- Practice Out Loud
Boogar, our local Slam Master, describes slam poetry as poetry that “needs to jump off the page,” that is so powerful it needs to exist in the real world, not just on the paper. The way you read your poem is just as important as its content; practice inflections, pronunciations, pauses, timing, etc. by reading your poem out loud to yourself or in the mirror.
- Stay and Mingle
Like I said before, Fort Collins has an amazing — and supportive! — slam family, and they love welcoming new poets into the community. So in between rounds and before and after the slam, walk around, introduce yourself, and say hello. Not only will you meet some amazing poets, but you might even make a new lifelong friend.
- Believe in Yourself
As cheesy as it sounds, it’s definitely true; if you have confidence in your words and your ability to read them, your poem and the message you’re trying to convey will come across so much clearer. And don’t forget to give yourself some credit; it is a brave thing to stand up in front of people and read your creative work — don’t sell yourself short.
And finally, the most important thing is to relax! Even if you don’t do so great the first time, you’ll still have an audience snapping in support, and a community of poetry slammers that have your back! Not to mention, you can always try it again next month.
From one poetry slammer to another: Good luck, and we hope to see you slamming soon!
If you’re looking to try your hand at poetry slams, look no further! Fort Collins has two amazing poetry slams that happen every month: Slam-o-gadro’s, the final Sunday of every month at Avogadro’s Number, 7pm and the Bean Cycle Slam, the first Friday of every Month at the Bean Cycle coffee house, 7:30pm. Additionally, a group of poets (myself included) are hosting a poetry slam fundraiser this Friday at the Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House starting at 7:30pm. All proceeds will benefit Far Away Friends, a nonprofit dedicated to improving primary education in Northern Uganda.