By Leslie D. Rose
With nervous energy and well-rehearsed poems, Team Eclectic Truth – The Baton Rouge National Poetry Slam team – headed to Oakland, Calif. on Aug 4 for a week of word battling and community at the National Poetry Slam (NPS).
For the second time in all of my eight years of poetry slam in Baton Rouge, I was a member of the team. Along with fellow veteran Rodrick Minor, rookies Beck Cooper and William Brian Sain and our coach, my husband Donney Rose, we devised a can’t-fail game plan for our first night of competition.
At the NPS, all 72 teams compete in two nights of preliminary rounds split into groups of four teams per bout. 20 teams proceed to semi finals with four teams advancing to finals. Rankings from each bout are added up to give a team an overall rank heading into semi finals. For example, a team that has won both of their preliminary bouts will have a rank of a 2 (add first place and first place). Teams with a total rank of 2 are guaranteed a spot in semi finals, but 3’s can also advance.
In night one of competition, we were pegged against Art Amok (Atlanta, Ga.), PuroSlam (San Antonio, Texas) and SlamCharlotte (N.C.). In round one we sent up a duet between William Brain Sain and me called “Needles”. The poem is a contrast of our upbringings as children of drug-addicted parents. Sain’s portion of the poem reflects his own experience with drugs, and my portion talks about other forms of addiction that I’ve experienced, from food to mannerisms. We received a 27.1, leaving us three tenths of a point behind PuroSlam.
In round two, Beck Cooper performed her body image poem “Too Big.” About one week prior to us attending NPS, Cooper’s poem went viral via Upworthy.com. With boisterous response from the audience, she scored a 27.6 to tie that round with SlamCharlotte, but still not taking the lead overall. I went up individually in round three with “American Hallucination.” The poem is about the estimated 80,000 Latino immigrant children this year and serves as an open letter their mothers explaining the conditions brown people live in here. I received a 27.1, which tied us with SlamCharlotte at 81.8 overall and one-tenth of a point behind PuroSlam.
In round four we sent up Rodrick Minor to perform his ode to grits. The truthful depiction of his love for the food had the audience erupting in laughter. He scored a 27.7, which gave us the overall lead at 109.5, two-tenths of a point higher than the second place and 1.5 higher than fourth place. In NPS lingo, we got the one!
The next day was our night off from competition, so we took the day easy with a trip to San Francisco, where we got lost on the bus route due to construction. I had entirely too much fun with a Share a Coke computer; we walked the Golden Gate Bridge and nearly froze our warm-natured Louisiana blood on the Bay.
Our second preliminary bout was a death match! We were up against Albuquerque (N.M.), SlamNUBA! (Denver, Co.) – two other teams who took the one on their first night – and San Jose (Calif.), who took a four the first night. It was evident from the first poem we sent up which received a 24.4 that we were not going to advance to semi-finals, so our coach threw the rest of our heavy material onstage, and we just barely took third place with a 1.5 lead over fourth place.
It wasn’t a bad week for Louisiana in general. Our brethren team Slam New Orleans – the two-time NPS winners headed back to final stage and placed third overall.
We had a wonderful time indulging in some extra festival events. We recorded social justice themed poems for a radio show that broadcasts over 140 stations and videos for a popular YouTube channel. But our excitement faded as we began our trek back home. During NPS we got a call that the venue where we host our poetry open mic and slam had closed down. The Eclectic Truth is now seeking a new home. Any venues interested in submitting a bid should email firstname.lastname@example.org.