Poets descend on Texas
Texas Grand Slam draws marquee talent
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 00:10
Poetry doesn’t just live in dusty textbooks tucked neatly on library shelves. Slam poetry brings poets on stage to perform their work live, and this weekend poets from around the country will come to Bryan to compete in Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival.
Slam poetry is about creativity and expressing oneself through words. Poets generally choose subjects about which they are passionate, and the words that follow are explosive.
“If you go to Texas Grand Slam, you’re guaranteed to walk away with one line or one sentence that you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” said Amir Safi, Class of 2010.
Texas Grand Slam, the largest annual poetry competition in Texas, was started by Mic Check Poetry, an organization that brings together students and members of the community with poetry.
“This being a college town, there’s a lot of young people around regardless of whether they’re in college or just graduated and are sticking around for a bit,” said Davis Land, freshman computer science major. “Young people have things to say, and poetry is a good way to say them.”
Now in its third year, Texas Grand Slam has given poets the license to say whatever they like, from how to deal with the grocery store to poets’ experiences with death.
“There’s not really one territory that’s untouched,” said Madison Parker, senior creative writing major. “You just talk about your experience in life, and people are going to relate to that and want to hear more if you’re honest in your poetry.”
In August 2010, Safi and other poets turned Mic Check into a nonprofit and entered the Pepsi Refresh competition.
Mic Check won $5,000 from Pepsi Refresh in October 2011, and Texas Grand Slam was born. The competition began with 36 poets, mostly from Texas, and it has grown to boast 42 competitors this year.
The poets competing include students, local talent and poets who will travel from as far as California and New York for the event.
“So we’ve had everything from a novice who’s never competed in a major festival before, to the champion of the world in our poetry slam,” Safi said. “That’s what’s nice about it. You really do get a range of talent. I’ve seen poets who have won major competitions not make it to our final stage, and I’ve seen poets for whom it’s their first major competition make it to the final stage. So nothing’s guaranteed in Texas Grand Slam.”
Parker, who is both organizing and competing in the event, said the range of talent is both exciting and intimidating.
“While half of me is like, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ the other half is just excited,” Parker said. “I’m definitely nervous for the very fact that there are so many awesome poets who have competed before, but I’m excited for this opportunity to get to compete because I know it will challenge my writing and challenge my performance and as an artist as well.”
Members of the Texas A&M community have been an integral part of creating this event, as student poets have worked to organize and promote it.
“I get to enjoy it, but I get to enjoy it from a whole other level, because I’ve gotten to see all the hard work each person has put into this, and all the time and dedication that has come into all of this,” Parker said. “It’s been really cool to promote it as a student and get to see students get so excited about it.”
Parker said students have reacted with enthusiasm to promotion of the event around campus.
“As a student, I get to see people’s responses when I speak to their classes or hand out flyers and I’ve had people come find me to learn more about it,” Parker said. “It’s really exciting because they’re not always people I would expect to normally come out to a poetry slam. It’s been cool to see the diversity of people interested in Texas Grand Slam.”
Safi said poetry slams are often too expensive to be worth the effort to many poets, as the prize money often doesn’t even cover travel expenses. The team behind Texas Grand Slam has worked to minimize the cost by including hotel prices in poets’ registration fees and offering as much old-fashioned southern hospitality as possible.
“Poets who visit usually say it’s their favorite event, because of the southern hospitality you get in Texas,” Safi said. “This event was created for poets by poets, so we realize their struggles and we try to accomodate them. We try to treat them well and show them some real southern hospitality.”
The event will encompass three rounds across two days and four stages.
The preliminary round will be held Friday at 6 p.m. at Revolution Café, The Palace Theater and The Grand Stafford Theater.
On Saturday, the competiton begins at 8 p.m. at The Palace Theater. Friday’s events are free, and tickets for the finals are $10 if purchased online before the event or $20 at the door.
Tickets for the event can be purchased at www.miccheckpoetry.org.