Review of "White Plains Library Poetry Slam"...and my own experience
Rain. Darkness. Love. Sadness. Lies. Deceit. Confusion. Ralization. Everything you might find buried in the below image and more...it was all there. Oh, and politics, too. What would a 2016 poetry slam be with no politics?
The White Plains Library Poetry Slam is the first poetry event I've been to since I moved to Westchester County about 5 years ago. I was really looking forward to getting to a slam and I'm so pleased that I made it.
The venue was in Grace Episcopal Church in lieu of the White Plains Library, which is apparently undergoing some construction. For the next 5 months, the slam will actually be held in the White Plains Barnes & Noble. I think this is a great idea because there is a good chance some unlikely spectators could drop in and perhaps become the next judges, fans, or even poets.
The atmosphere was bright and the crowd was diverse. Interestingly, in speaking with one of the slam poets after the show, she said, "This was my first 'adult' event." There were literally teenagers in attendance as well as some who probably get discount movie tickets. I think this aspect made the night even better.
The White Plains slam was structured in a manner that made spectators, poets, judges, staff and everyone else feel welcome. There was an Emcee, a guy named Ben, and a slam master. This slam is run by Eric "ZORK" Alan. They had some snacks, everyone was friendly - the whole environment had an aura that was not intimidating.
The slam, which occurs monthly, was 2 hours (7-9pm). The first portion was dedicated to poets and artists who signed up for the "Open Mic". Following that, there was a feature poet. Tonight it was Bryan Roessel. Then there is a mini-slam competition for those who sign up (I suppose some nights it's less mini; tonight there were 4 poets who participated).
The Open Mic section was less of what all-too-many people picture when they hear the term "poetry slam"...and in this case, it was a very good thing. To me, the open mic section was really about the art of spoken word poetry.
The open mic was eclectic. It was not relegated to any demographic. The variety of performers who got up in front of the room to share their expressions, their views, their humor, their emotions, their sentiments on everything from politics to love to history to...well, to girls peeing standing up (something called Go Girl, apparently?) was gripping for me!
I never knew which way the wind would blow next. I never knew what kind of poet would share a story that is completely not something I thought would come out of their mouth.
I love poetry. I love hearing people's poetry, and that's why I loved the open mic. There were verse poems, rhyming poems, funny poems, free-forms, even a man who played the guitar while singing about how America has gone insane.
Oh, there was also this guy who I am really hard on. I've seen him perform before and he used to have no fear, just get up there and PERFORM. Well, he got up on stage tonight. First time in six years. He made it through his piece, but not well. This would be me. At least I got my feet wet again and had a good time. My performance, however...well, I'll just say I'm glad it wasn't on video. I'll have to practice some more and go back to read my own tips!
Feature Slam Poet: Bryan Roessel
Bryan is a science teacher and his poetry is often rooted in science, emotion, and sadness. Metaphors about gravity, for examply, were used to embody natural forces that draw people together. Very creative.
He truly loves to perform and entertain. He puts his all into what he does and the crowd gets into it. The nerdy science metaphors are a fun twist that help the audience not only understand the message Bryan has, but actually get to know Bryan a little better. For you aspiring poets out there, this is a great nugget to keep in mind when writing your own pieces - make sure your piece is personal to you and don't be scared to show who you really are.
Bryan also hosts (Slam Master) the Rock Slam in Suffern (Rockland County, NY).
The Poetry Slam
The White Plains Library Poetry Slam was facilitated slightly different than others I've been to (at least on this night).
There were four performers. Each went up to perform a piece. I don't believe anyone was actually timing the pieces to make sure they stayed within 3 minutes; in many slams you can lose points for spill over time and I don't believe that was the case here.
Judges were selected at random from the audience and my wife was actually chosen as one, so we got to have some fun with it. We rated each poet on their piece from 1-10. We're not harsh critics, so we basically rated from 7.5-10 using decimals to distinguish who we thought had better content and gave an elevated performance.
For this slam, there was only one round. This is where I've typically seen slams run differently. I thought there may be a subsequent round where the two highest scoring poets each perform another piece to determine the winner. I don't think the format used took away from anything - it helped fit the poetry slam into the time slot while still allowing a feature poet and open mic.
The winner of the Slam was Kemara Night, but I did think all the poets brought a good message to the evening. Here's a piece from her so you can get a sense of her style (this is a version of the piece she performed):
I definitely recommend that if you're visiting Westchester or you're a resident, making this monthly poetry event is worth your time. It's something different, it's fun, it's laid back and easy-going and there is absolutely some talent that comes. You can find more information here. Hope to see you there sometime!
If you're looking for help with writing or performing slam poetry, check out my blog!