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Poetry slam comes to the Bama Theatre

Ashley Chaffin

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The Bama Theatre is opening its doors to all local poets Tuesday night for its first ever poetry slam.

The event starts at 7:30 p.m., but anyone interested in signing up to participate is encouraged to get there early because there will be only 12 available slots due to time constraints.

“A poetry slam is basically just a poetry contest,” said Rebecca Rothman, president of the Arts Council of Tuscaloosa. “It’s not just people who want to work in poetry professionally. It’s for people who write and want people to hear their work.”

There are only three rules that poets will have to follow when participating in the contest. Poems cannot go over three minutes, the work must be original, and no props should be used.

“No props is the tradition of poetry slams,” said D. Jay Cervino, who is helping to put the slam together. “It’s just a forum for folks to be heard and to have a creative outlet.”

He said poetry slams started in the 1980s in Chicago but he thinks people had been getting together to share their work and compete for many years before that. He said he is excited that the Bama Theatre is able bring this type of event to Tuscaloosa.

“I’m most excited to feel the energy of the place,” he said. “I think that poets bring their own unique energy to a room, some better than others, and I think we’ll see that in the competition.”

The competition will take place in two separate rounds. After all of the contestants get a chance to share their poems, the judges will pick the top six poets to move on to round two. The top three contestants at the end of the night will win a cash prize.

“We’re going to have at least one celebrity judge, someone who is a known name in the poetry and creative world, and we’re working on getting a second,” Cervino said.

In addition to the celebrity judges, a few audience members will be picked to help judge the competition.

“The idea is to have poetry that doesn’t only appeal to poetry professors, but that appeals to the audience and everyone who comes,” Rothman said.

The host for the poetry slam will be Abraham Smith, a poet and professor at the University. He is well known in Tuscaloosa for his part in bringing Poetry Out Loud, a national high school poetry competition, to schools in Tuscaloosa.

Anyone who doesn’t get to participate in the contest or is interested in showcasing their work without being judged will have the chance to perform during the open mic portions of the night.

Tuesday’s event is the first time the Bama Theatre has hosted an event like this. Typically the Greensboro Room, where the event will take place, is used as the concessions lobby and for acoustic shows. Rothman said she thinks this will be the perfect venue for a poetry slam.

“I think people that have never been there or who have been to the Bama but never in the Greensboro Room before will be really surprised and really excited that Tuscaloosa has something like this,” she said.

The cover charge is $3, but there is no entry fee for contestants. The money collected at the door will help to fund the prizes given to the winners. The Bama Theatre will also be selling drinks and giving away free popcorn throughout the event.

“I think this is a way for people to participate in cultural events that are going on in Tuscaloosa,” Cervino said. “It’s a time to hang out with other poetry aficionados, and it’s a way to get some free popcorn.”

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Poetry slam comes to the Bama Theatre