By Nick BeJeaux
Four of Baton Rouge’s best performance poets are planning their trip to Oakland, California, where they will compete in the 2014 National Poetry Slam.
Rebecca Cooper, Leslie D. Rose, Rodrick Minor and William Sain were chosen by their peers to represent the BR slam scene at the competition, which will take place August 5-9 in a variety of venues around Oakland.
Naming themselves Eclectic Truth, the quartet is coached by Donney Rose, slam poet extraordinaire and Leslie Rose’s husband.
“I have the great honor of coaching four remarkably dynamic poets on their journey to the 2014 National Poetry Slam,” Rose said. “This team is a wonderful blend of rookies and veterans with a widely diverse collective of narratives that combines to truly create an eclectic voice for Baton Rouge.”
Cooper is the team’s greenhorn but she’ll have the advantage of performing for a home crowd.
“I’m originally from the Bay Area, so this will be the first time my family and friends from home will be able to see me perform,” she said. “We’ve been writing and memorizing group and individual pieces to perform in Oakland. I memorize pieces by reciting them over and over anytime I drive anywhere. People driving by must think I’m having an incredibly compelling conversation with myself – complete with choreographed hand gestures.”
Leslie, one of DIG Magazines very own freelancers, competed in the Women of the World Poetry Slam, where she ranked 24 out of 72. She has also been published in Indiefeed (three times), Passages North, Borderline Online Poetry Journal; A Celebration of New Jersey’s Young Poets (twice); and Mount Holly’s Youth Voices. Rose draws on her personal experiences and her job a journalist to create poetry that empowers women.
“I write the stories of my life, from my mom hiding a heroin addiction that I only found out about 12 years after her death,” she said. “I write poems to my dad ridiculing me over weight gain, to my life as a journalist and coaching my BFF – a reporter – through reporting her own best friend’s death on live TV, to a poem about Whitney Houston’s life and death. That last one is pretty popular and always has a great showing.”
Minor’s work tends to be in first-person narrative, where he searches for larger meaning in the events that shaped his life. He doesn’t neglect showmanship, nonetheless.
“My work, I would say is definitely rooted in the social commentary regarding rural living as a child leading into my teens,” he said. “The topics tend to have a personal narrative approach discussing several phases from key people in family to just moments of nostalgia. I’m preparing for the big competition by rehearsing along with my teammates and going over poems alone to sharpen any miscues in my showmanship.”
Sain teaches English II at Broadmoor High School and writes poetry about his struggles growing up in rural Oklahoma. You’d likely think that would be hard enough, but Sain also had to overcome addictions to crack cocaine and methamphetamine and their consequences to get where he is today.
“I write about my personal experience with the repercussions of drug addiction, such as jail, suicidal thoughts, and near death experiences,” he said. “I also write about my friends who have overdosed, died, and been imprisoned because of drug abuse. These stories are the cornerstone of my recently released chapbook ‘White Boy Wasted.’”
Copies of “Whiteboy Wasted” are on sale from Sain’s Tumblr page, williambriansain.tumblr.com.
In the days leading up to their departure, these poets are furiously writing and editing duet and solo pieces. Writing for two can be difficult, but having two editors decide the final version of a piece can be sticky. However, the group’s biggest challenge so far is figuring out how to pay for the trip.
“For anyone who has ever traveled across country from Louisiana, particularly to the west coast, you know how expensive it can be,” said Donney Rose. “Consider the cost of one person making that trip, and then consider the cost of four people making the trip and you can see where this is no small task.”
Eclectic Truth has set up a page on Go Fund Me (www.gofundme/EclecticTruth2014) for donations and will also sell a team chapbook and give performances. ET hopes to raise about $3,000 before August.
“We have been fundraising like nobody’s business,” said Cooper. “Fingers crossed we’ll be able to raise enough money to go represent Baton Rouge!”