By John Hanley
“The community really supports spoken word. Even people that aren’t writers come and support us, and that’s one of the most significant things in Baton Rouge.”
“Do you still remember me?” poet Rodrick Minor asked from the stage at BREC Independence Park Theatre Friday evening, reciting a spoken word poem about his home state of Mississippi.
He asked rhetorically, but if it were a question to the audience, the answer would surely have been a resounding yes. Minor, along with several other local poets, took to the stage September 19 to brandish their talents.
Produced by Donney Rose and presented by BREC Independence Park, Word of Mouth featured several spoken word artists, including Donney Rose himself and DIG’s own Leslie D. Rose.
Each artist presented a handful of poems, passing the torch to the next poet at the end of his or her set.
Desiree Dallagiacomo, another one of the night’s performers, said she has spent several years perfecting her poetry. “I just kind of stumbled into it, but I’ve always been kind of a performer,” she explained. Originally from Chico, Calif., Dallagiacomo moved to Baton Rouge and has been a part of the local spoken word scene for about five years.
“I think what makes the Baton Rouge poetry scene work is that we have a range in generations,” she remarked to me outside of the theatre. “Because we have a strong academic base, and we have really strong ties with LSU…we’re able to cover a large range and work with writers for a long time.”
This range in age was clear among the Word of Mouth performers alone, which brought with it a range in experiences, strengths, and subject matter.
Chelsea Murry, wearing the title “The Connoisseur of Curse Words,” captivated the audience with stories of her father’s death, her weight, and her struggles as a child. Her poems were often somber, but she kept the audience laughing with her joviality and endearingly foul language.
Murry, a Houma native, said she has been writing poetry for five to six years. Her grandmother was a teacher when Murry was in high school, challenging students to study and decipher Maya Angelou poems. This is what Murry said got her started in poetry.
“Just do it,” she urged, “the way to fall in love with it and the way to do it is just to do it.”
Murry said she got her start in the spoken word scene by simply attending shows and trying her hand at open mics.
“The community really supports spoken word,” she said. “Even people that aren’t writers come and support us, and that’s one of the most significant things in Baton Rouge.”
Although it still remains relatively underground, spoken word is a fast-growing scene in Baton Rouge, and there are many ways to get involved.
Every Tuesday night at 7 pm, there are readings and open mics on the second floor of the Arts Council Firehouse Gallery.
Along with events like the Word of Mouth show, there are also Thursday Night Live open mics held in the LSU Student Union, and a youth poetry slam and open mic called Fresh Heat held the third Thursday of every month.
LSU’s Delta Review Journal also hosts poetry readings at Highland Coffees on the first and third Thursday of every month.
Baton Rouge’s qualifying round for the Women Of The World poetry slam, an all-female spoken word competition being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2015, will be held in the Arts Council Firehouse Gallery on October 14th.
Murry noted that the Baton Rouge qualifying round for the Women Of The World slam is “one of the most electrifying slams that the world has…females basically come [and] pour their hearts into three-minute, two-minute, and one-minute poems.”
So, whether you are a fan of poetry looking for entertainment, an artist looking for a chance to perform, or simply curious, Baton Rouge has plenty of events and opportunities to get involved, both on LSU’s campus and off.