What IS a poetry slam?
Simply put, a poetry slam is a competition where poets perform their work on stage. Each poem is scored Olympic style by randomly selected judges from the audience. In a truly democratic fashion the audience is invited to cheer, boo, and even bribe judges to sway their scores.
But Slam is more than just a competition. It’s about getting yourself out there, putting your stuff on the line, and performing your work for others until you know that every person in the audience is feelin’ your piece in the core of their soul. It’s about community. Wordsmiths of all different ages, styles, creeds, and origins coming together to rub shoulders, spurn, and inspire each other forward.
History of slam:
Slam poetry, originally invented by Marc Smith (SO WHAT?) in Chicago back in 1984, is a relatively young form. From humble beginnings, slam has spread like wildfire not only across the continent, but around the world, with slams in places like Singapore, Madagascar, and Bosnia. There are regional, national, and international competitions held annually, including the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, that attract over 15,000 people and upwards of 80 teams. Slam has inspired TV shows like Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry and Brave New Voices on HBO. It has also been the focus of documentaries and films like SlamNation and Slam!
The Burlington Slam Project was co-founded by Tomy Bewick and Selina Jane Eckersall. Our very first slam was in a cramped upstairs room at The Dickens on July 24th, 2008. The room was hot but so was the poetry and we haven’t stopped bringing the heat since. Over the years BSP has been through many changes. We changed venues a handful of times and said goodbye to Selina as she invested more time in her career and children. In October of 200 we moved around the corner from the Dickens to a back room in The Paradiso. It was a nice space but the we ran a little late for the restaurant. So in early 2009 we moved (again) across the street to the back room of the Honey West Restaurant & Lounge. It was a posh room with a couple leather chairs and a small bar. In June, due to an unfortunate double booking we made a last minute relocation to the Queen’s Head a few blocks away on Brant St. What was meant to be a temporary fix wound up lasting a few months.
On October 21st, we found our home in the Fireside Lounge of the Black Bull Tavern, and while we were quite happy in that space for quite some time, we found ourselves scrambling in early 2012 when The Black Bull had suddenly closed. This led us to the upstairs lounge in Philthy McNasty’s. Couches, and cool lighting, and we were pretty comfortable for a while, until fate once again had us arrive to locked doors and a closed establishment in September 2012. And wouldn’t you know it? The Black Bull had re-opened, and we’ve been back there ever since, though we were given access to the back room – the gorgeous banquet hall, which provides us with a huge space, and ample privacy to get our slam on! Not to mention, The Black Bull -very- generously began donating our prize money each month!
So currently, and hopefully for a very long time, we call The Black Bull’s Banquet Hall home. The staff have been wonderfully helpful and supportive, and we’ve developed a real sense of community growth with the establishment. Be sure to check out their website!