By Nick BeJeaux
This weekend marks the beginning of the All City Teen Poetry Slam Festival, a youth poetry expose that is the only one of its kind in Louisiana.
The Festival is hosted by Forward Arts partnered with New Delta Review, BREC, the BR Arts Council, and hosted by BRCC. The festival, essentially a massive poetry competition, features performances by FA’s poetry students. Three events are available to the public, most of which are also free.
“All of the public events, with the exception of the Grand slam Finals, are free,” said Donney Rose, poet and program director at Forward Arts. “This is the first time we are able to do this—we used to charge for preliminary bouts, but not this year. The financial status of our organization has changed drastically, but more than anything we want to eliminate any barriers from people coming out. Even the $5 that we used to charge would be a barrier for some young people, but we know this will increase our outreach and encourage participation next year.”
The Preliminary Bouts: April 30 & May 1 @ BRCC’s Magnolia Theatre
Spread over two days, four teams will compete in three bouts for a spot in the Grand Slam Finals, where judges will decide who represents BR on the national stage.
“At the end of each bout, we will give the team a ranking based on how they click,” said Rose. “After the two days of preliminary bouts we add up the rankings and the teams with the highest rankings will be going to the Grand Slam Finals. In the end, four teams will be competing in the finals.”
Rose said that in addition to scoring teams, judges will also be on the look out for individual poets as well.
“As we are ranking and scoring teams, we are also ranking and scoring individuals,” said Rose. Any time a team sends up an individual to do a solo performance, that person is ranked as well. So any poet that has a high cumulative score, but they are on a team that isn’t going to finals, they can go to finals—we take the six highest scoring individuals to finals.
ReVision: An Evening of Live Music and Poetry: May 8 @ the Firehouse Gallery
This year is the second time ReVision has been an interlude between the preliminary and final bouts, offering an evening of food, live music and poetry. Also, the new and returning members of Word Crew, the youth spoken word collective of Forward Arts’ WordPlay Writing Project, will be receiving their signature cardigans and pins respectively.
But the crowning event of the evening is the launch of the first edition of Crushed Canvas, FA’s student-produced literary journal.
“We have about 43 poems, 15 pieces of visual art and five short stories—so around 70 pages,” said Rose. “I have been in contact with the New Delta Review and geoff munsterman, a local poet here in Baton Rouge, and they have offered me a huge amount of assistance in getting this finalized. We expect to go to print this Monday.”
Grand Slam Finals featuring Desiree Dallagiacomo: May 9 @ BRCC’s Magnolia Theatre
During the Grand Slam Finals, there will be four team rounds and three individual rounds all vying for the championship title and a shot at competing in the Brave New Voices national championship. However, before the competition begins in earnest, FA will be taking the time to recognize students and staff that went above and beyond.
“It’s a full show. Not only are we showcasing finalists, but also the teams that showed the most spirit, who will be competing for the Spirit of the Slam Awards. …There will also be a coach’s award, and a Volunteer of the Year Award, then the actual competition.”
At the end of the night there will be a top team and the top six solo poets. However, there is more at stake than mere titles—opportunity is on the line.
“We score every individual performance, whether they are on a team or solo, and the six highest scoring poets will be placed on our national team for Brave New Voices. The team with highest cumulative of the night makes up the 2015 All City Teen Champions, so there is a distinction between the team that wins and the solo poets who become a team after the finals.”
More information on the ACTPS can be found at forwardarts.org.