April’s National Poetry Month Happenings

April is National Poetry Month. There are a lot of exciting poetic happenings all over the state, but most exciting to me is the Olympic styled event of poetry slam. On April 18, the Providence Poetry Slam will run its semi finals, the second leg of competition in the process of picking out the team that will represent Rhode Island at this year’s National Poetry Slam, which is happening this July, right down the street from us in Boston. I caught up with one of the local competitors in the semis, poet and educator Marlon (Inphynit) Carey, to discuss this new style of poetry slam he and Len Cabral collaborated to birth dubbed “The Poetry of 10” at Roots Café, which had its inaugural event in March. He explains, “Having been a member of several poetry slam teams, and having participated in hundreds of open mic events over the years, I created a new sort of poetry event by merging the competitive aspect of a poetry slam with the democracy of an open mic. The poets have a total of five minutes, or two poems, to win the crowd over for a prize at the end of the night. Instead of only five judges from the audience, everyone who pays the door charge gets to cast a vote for his or her favorite poet out of 10 contestants. Thus, The Poetry of 10.
To add to this unpredictable stew of a truly diverse level playing field, Carey also eliminated a set number sign-up sheet, allowing all poets who wish to participate to sign up before the 8 pm cut-off time and literally put their John Hancock in the hat. Ten contestants are picked at random, giving newbies and veterans the same chance of getting on the mic. All readers have the opportunity to perform with the rotating band of musicians that Carey calls The 10-Piece Band. At the end of the open mic competition, while the votes are tabulated, the audience is treated to a 35-minute feature performance by a professional performance poet or musician.
The inaugural show was a huge success. The next Poetry of 10 is April 3, 2013. The feature will be Boston’s Douglas Bishop. Future features are rumored to include Mwalim Peters (who is nominated for a Native American Music Awards honor this year) and Harlym 125.
Don’t forget that the last Tuesday of every month, Mairead Byrne brings couscous to AS220 at 9 pm, showcasing a myriad of local talent, followed by an open mic. Every Tuesday, there is Got Poetry Live! at Blue State Cafe onThayer Street.