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Common Grounds hosts poetry slam

November 17, 2000

Poetry is not usually associated with competition, but tonight the Common Grounds Coffeehouse in Akers Hall basement will attempt to slam that notion.

The Offbeat, an independent literary publication run by MSU undergraduate students, and the Red Cedar Review will sponsor a poetry slam for those who want to test their poetic skills in front of an audience.

The doors open at 7:30 p.m., and there are 20 slots for aspiring readers. Admission is free.

A poetry slam is a competitive poetry reading with a style similar to an open mic night typically associated with comedy clubs. The competition is held with five judges. At the end of the night the top three competitors receive prizes.

“The focus of a poetry slam is meant to be on the spontaneous, improvisational aspects of the event,” said English senior Gavin Craig, editor in chief of The Offbeat. “Due to the spontaneity of the event, slams are not regularly held.”

The traditional poetry reading is vastly different from a slam. A slam focuses on the performance aspect of the art, complete with audience feedback and participation.

“I expect a lot of action and some dramatic and unpredictable moments,” said zoology senior Matt Penniman, content editor of The Oats, another MSU literary magazine. “I have been to poetry slams before, and you never have any idea what type of poems will be read and how people will perform them.”

Competitors have three minutes to perform their chosen piece of poetry. The poet must read an original piece of work. For every 10 seconds the competitors exceed the time they will be penalized with the deduction of half a point.

“At the start of the night we will have four featured readers from the publications sponsoring the slam who will hopefully get things rolling for the rest of the program,” Craig said.

Those four featured readers are Angela Giroux and Melissa Dawson-Bowling from the Red Cedar Review, and Timothy Carmody and M.G. Lee from The Offbeat.

“I think reading at the slam will be a very exciting opportunity,” said Carmody, a mathematics senior. “Hosting the slam is giving us the opportunity to work as writers and try to build a literary community in the East Lansing area.”

The judges for the competition will be various members of the sponsoring organizations, MSU faculty and Penniman.

“As a judge, I am looking for the performer to be using well-written work,” Penniman said. “I also am looking for the performance to give the illusion that the work is spontaneous and they are coming up with it on the spot.”

The prizes will be a current issue of The Offbeat and the Red Cedar Review; along with a few surprise items donated by the MSU Bookstore and the MSU Press.

“Anything at a slam is fair game, which can lead to a good slam being an excellent forum for work more adventurous than you encounter at a normal poetry reading,” Craig said.


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