April 10, 2013

Off Beat: Poets use their words to slam one another down

The Portland Slam Team Semi-Finals are scheduled for Tuesday at Bull Feeney’s in Portland.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Poets competing against each other in a bar? With raucous crowds cheering them on?
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

click image to enlarge



WHEN: 7 p.m. (doors) Tuesday

WHERE: Bull Feeney’s, 375 Fore St., Portland

HOW MUCH: $3; $5 for two people together; 18-plus unless accompanied by an adult

INFO: portveritas.com

Even if you slept through poetry readings in school, you’ll probably find something to enjoy at the Portland Slam Team Semi-Finals scheduled for Tuesday at Bull Feeney’s in Portland.

It’s the first of three rounds of poetry slam competitions among local poets vying for one of five spots on a Portland slam team that will compete at the 2013 National Poetry Slam in Cambridge, Mass., this summer.

The competitions are organized in Portland by Port Veritas, a non-profit group made up of poets and spoken-word artists.

And while the un-poetic among us may think of poetry as sort of a cerebral, quiet and even solitary exercise, Portland is apparently filled with poets who love to compete.

“I guess it’s kind of a drawback, that people might see the competition as not conducive to the art,” said Nate Amadon, an organizer of the competition who has represented Port Veritas at the national slam in the past. “But one of the reasons it works is that any time you’ve had very competitive poets working at the same time, they’ve always pushed each other, pushed the work just a little bit more.”

The Port Veritas slam semi-finals sound a little like “American Idol” for poets.

Amadon says at Tuesday’s event, there will be nine poets competing. Each will bring three poems and have three minutes to perform each one. No props are allowed.

After reciting, the poets will be judged by five people in the Bull Feeney’s crowd, picked at random.

The rest of the audience is encouraged to try to sway the judges by booing or cheering as they see fit, Amadon said.

Shouldn’t the judges be poetry experts? Well, Amadon said poetry slams were invented to foster audience interaction and make the whole thing more fun for both the crowd and the poet.

The judges will use an Olympic-style scoring scale of 0 to 10. Decimal points will be used to avoid ties, Amadon said. The five top-scoring poets will move on.

There will be another semi-final round at Bull Feeney’s on April 23, and then there will be a final round on April 30.

When the smoke clears, five poets will be left standing and will be given the honor of representing Port Veritas at the National Poetry Slam in August.

Along the way, the competing poets will recite poems about love, about tragedy, about social activism.

They’ll be competing, but they’ll still be creating.

“If you come to one of these,” said Amadon, “you’re likely to hear anything.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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