Poetry slams at Acoustic Cafe tonight
In the midst of cheers and jeers from the crowd, junior Brian Martin will compete and display his best work under the close scrutiny of a panel of judges. No, it’s not a sporting event – it’s the Running Water Poetry Slam’s Grand Slam, which will take place at 7 p.m. tonight at the Acoustic Cafe, 505 S. Barstow.
Martin said he began writing poetry when he was a freshman in high school, and later, became involved in the RWPS.
“Two years ago, at the grand slam, was the first time I went to one,” he said. ” … It was pretty amazing.”
|Running Water Poetry Slam
Time: 7 p.m.
Place:Acoustic Cafe, 505 S. Barstow
Martin said after seeing what it was like, he decided to start reading at the slams. Now has competed at about seven slams and one grand slam.
Mike Paulus and his wife Shannon founded the RWPS four years ago.
Mike, also the slam master, said while normal slams are open to anyone, grand slam poets first must make it through a qualifying slam.
There are two qualifying rounds, and the top eight poets from each move on to the grand slam, making a total of 16 poets.
Mike said poets range from high school students to older community members and UW-Eau Claire students.
The criteria are that poets remain under three minutes and they aren’t allowed to have costumes, music or props.
The slams are scored on a scale from .1 to 10 by five judges randomly chosen from the audience, he said.
Mike said they try to pick judges who don’t know
Before the judges see the competing poets, they first score the “sacrificial poet,” or calibration poet, he said.
They then have to give poems they like more a higher score and poems they don’t like a lower score, Mike said.
The audience is asked to try to affect the judge’s decision by cheering and booing the poems they like or don’t like, he said.
“It’s not a bad idea to bring friends along to scream real loud and maybe get some higher scores,” Martin said.
The top and bottom score are dropped, and the poet tries to earn the best score out of 30, Mike said.
There is a short break, during which the rock-paper- scissors T-shirt tournament takes place while scores are compared. The top eight move on to the next round, Mike said.
He said the second round repeats and the top four move on to the third round. They then perform one final poem.
Poets are ranked based on their third-round performance only.
Mike said prizes donated by local businesses are given to the top four.
Trading cards are made of the poets and sold with gum for $1. The money made from the sales is given to the top poet, he said.
Many styles, from traditional to that of the spoken word, are represented, he said, but most poets write in free verse.
The poems’ subject matter varies equally, ranging from emotional to political, Mike said, but some styles tend to score better than others.
“Funny stuff is a really big crowd pleaser,” he said.
Mike said, however, that any poem can do well.
The grand slams can draw a crowd, he said. Typically, there are no places left to sit or stand. He said he recommends people show up an hour and a half early.
Junior Matt Murphy said he enjoys attending the slams and plans to go tonight.
“I like it, because it’s just a chance to see some of the really, really creative people on campus,” he said.
Martin said poets prepare in different ways.
“I know a lot of people practice and memorize their stuff,” he said. “I pretty much go in cold.”
Martin said although he often keeps slam style in mind, it isn’t his primary motivation for writing.
“I write a lot of poems, many which are not in slam style,” he said. ” … I write mostly for myself, and if it happens to work out, then I might read it.”
Murphy said there is one thing he doesn’t like about the slams.
“Poetry slam takes the emphasis off what’s written and onto how it’s presented,” he said.
However, Murphy said he still really enjoys the experience and feels it would appeal to students.
“It’s a high-intensity atmosphere,” he said. “… Just because you’re not an English major isn’t a good reason for not showing up.”