Slammin’ it: The spoken word returns

Asheville once hosted one of the most vibrant poetry slam scenes in the country. The legendary Green Door slams drew participants from throughout Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina and East Tennessee, and featured performers from the national slam circuit (such as Chicago’s Mark Smith, founder of the first slam). The local team traveled to national events around the country, and the national slam was held here in 1994. Countless chap books were published, recordings sold and careers launched from the Green Door stage. Historian Howard Zinn even dropped by to see a performance by local poet and playwright David Hopes. Those were the days; and those days are back.

The Dripolator will host the new Asheville poetry slam starting on Saturday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Organizer Kapila Medicine Crow has been working with Lake Eden Arts Festival slam-master (and Asheville slam alumnus) Navé to rebirth the verbal phoenix. Standard slam rules apply: original material, poems no more than three minutes long and no props allowed. The contest is arranged in three rounds with winners from each round advancing to the next.

That mean’s you’ll need three poems. They need not be memorized, but from long-time experience I can assure you that making eye contact with the audience and smiling is always good for a few points. Remember what Asheville’s most famous slammer, Allan Wolf, always told competitors: “There are no bad poems, only bad judges!” At the first competition there will be no entry fee.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer (and 1993 Southeast Slam Champ)


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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20 thoughts on “Slammin’ it: The spoken word returns

  1. anonymous

    And many things deserve Rebirthing. The slam is one of them.
    Performance poetry, and the message of the artists involved,
    especially in this day and age, is more relevant than ever.
    In addition, it is inspiring, entertaining, and empowering for the audience, for youth, and for those who are seeking to find their own voice. So bury yourself, naysayers, and arise to the potential.

  2. anonymous

    I, and millions of others do assuredly call it poetry, and rightfully so. What arrogance it would take for ANYONE to claim the role of defining poetry. Some of the most beautiful powerful words ever written have been written and performed through slam poetry. To NOT call it Poetry would be the pompous lie of a judegmental mind, and not an accurate assessment of what poetry is or is not.

  3. You can call it whatever you want, but I will never call it poetry. Slam emphasizes style over substance, and is all about the cult of the individual (please, with the judging and the voting, blech), and without its verbal/theatrical component it falls flat on the page.
    Who are you to say that I, or anyone else, can or cannot attribute a value (or lack thereof) to something? We define things all the time, that is the function of Language. If you have found profound meaning and beauty in slam then bully for you, just don’t expect everyone else to share your opinion.

    ps, Millions of “others” also buy Clay Aiken albums and vote Republican.

  4. Why does everybody have to hate on Clay Aiken all the time? As a card-carrying Claymate (local #516), I wish you would just go to a single concert, and you would see that the man is A TRUE POET (!!!) and possibly a SPACE PIRATE!(!!!)

    No thoughts on the slam though. If Allan Wolf ain’t hosting, I have a hard time generating much interest. (Nothin’ personal, Kapila.)

  5. Ashvegas: He’s still around. In the last decade or so, he’s done well for himself in the kids’ book racket. He’s also in The Dead Poets, a group that turns classic poems into songs. He hosted a student poetry slam not that long ago, which you can probably still catch on URTV.

    Pants: Don’t be hatin’. Claymates are everywhere.

  6. Anonymous

    Whoevers slammin the slam, has really not seen much slam in all its diversity and potentcy, beyond the confines of his/her own mind and judgements. Sounds like someone who is not much of a poet in any form, talks big, and perhaps has fallen on their face in the slam or never had much of an audience to begin with. Pity. Everyone else can judge for themselves as it unfolds again in asheville, or go to my space or you tube, or and do a search for slam poetry. See poetry as it was done long before the universities, paper, and snobs came along.

  7. Steve,
    I see a very lucrative research grant in your future.


    I am familiar enough with slam to know what it is, and that I don’t like it, if this somehow offends you, then I suggest you grow some thicker skin. As far as everyone else goes I certainly would encourage them to go see some slam and make up their own minds on what it is, and what it isn’t in the same way that I would encourage them to discover the neglected world of Poetry, minus the theatrics and hooting.
    As far as my own work is concerned I doubt you are familiar with it enough to make such an idiotic statement– but if you are– well then as an active participant in the great creative conversation that is Poetry I certainly am mature enough not to taje the rejection personally…are you?

  8. anonymous

    Poetry performed, especially by the poet’s when performing their own work, is not a commodity. It is a gift, offered by the poet who is living and breathing their poetry right into the heart and life of the audience. No words on a page can achieve this, its impossible, because its just words, not the living breathing reality embodied in the poet right before them. What greater honor to the poet, and the audience, to actually witness the poem? As opposed to just reading its alphabetic grammatically sturctured blue print, on a piece of paper. Gift, not commodity . . . living poet, not dry black ink? yes, its so difficult to see why performance poetry via the slam is so invalid . . .
    i bow to you oh academia sheltered emotionally inhibited dry page worshipers.

  9. You can have your world, I’ll have mine. You have misconstrued or just missed every point I have made and instead gone sophomoric with your cliched “academia sheltered” crap, so peace be with you and good luck in changing the world with your (no doubt?) self-satisfied rantings about the Man.

  10. anonymous

    Actually, I got your every point, everyone was refuted ina conciese clear and truthful way. You dont like it. and slam poetry is about a whole lot more than rants about anything. it is the human story told in All its diversity, passion, wisdom and beauty, intemingled with tragedy, humor and intelligent insight. You have only miscontrued yourself and your own judgemental narrow mindset in your attempt to slam the slam because of your own self justified reasons, which have nothing to do with the slam OR poetry, and only you, And i have never taken a single word of any of this conversation personally. Obviously in your insecurity you are attempting to project your own mindblather onto me and the slam. A big fat whatever to your this poetry is more holier than thou facade, and a hearty hey ho for the beautiful world of poetry, in all it’s forms, and a grand welcome to the rebirth of it in asheville. It was a great night at the dripolator, a packed house, great poets, and a highly appreciative audience.

  11. Jason Ross Martin

    Well, those who attended the event were treated to 11 poets, and nearly 3 solid hours of original, passionate, infectious verse. Networking opportunities abounded for those in attendance, and the winners split up a cash prize of $50. And so for those who truly love poetry, and the idea of celebrating it publicly, this was a grand victory. But of course for those who prefer their poetry on the printed page, there were millions of lonely, solitary library chairs gleefully unattended for you to fill last night.

  12. Cassandra Newman

    Slam poets are such sellouts, with all their coke and high-priced, rockstar lifestyle; big cars, groupies, and other spoils from selling out. Such sellouts of the true poetry world, oh lonely and noble craft!

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