As part of an ongoing outlet for touring musicians—and, in this case, poets—to send correspondence and let Salt Lakers know the trials and tribulations of the road, the Salt City Slam team has been keeping us in the loop with their bouts at the National Poetry Slam. Click on the links to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the team’s diary entries.
With the teams’ final entry and news of their outcome, poet Jesse Parent writes from Boston on August 14, 2011:
Well, we knew it was going to be a hot bout, but not like this.
After getting into the semifinal round at the National Poetry Slam for the first time ever, Salt City Slam prepared for our bout against Providence, Santa Cruz, Berkeley and Oakland at the Cambridge YMCA. We drew the first slot and scored fairly low with my piece, "Hooked Cross," and watched as all the teams were bringing great poetry to the stage. In the third round, in the middle of a poem, the fire alarm went off. The poet pressed on during the chaos and finished, and the crowd moved outside. It turns out that it was not a false alarm and there was a small fire in the building, which took about 45 minutes to contain and then we were allowed in. But in that time, we lost a few judges and it was decided to restart the third round.
The wrinkle came from the YMCA and the fact that it was a shelter with people living in it. Since we didn't get back in until after curfew (10:30) the audience was not allowed to applaud or make noise, so we did a hand-shaking clap that is seen by deaf audiences using ASL. All of these factors, plus a lack of air conditioning, created a pretty insane environment, and the final straw came when a poet from Santa Cruz collapsed in the middle of his poem. The bout was cancelled and the teams agreed to ask that it be rescheduled, and Poetry Slam, Inc. had less than 12 hours to get it done.
The organizers were luckily able to get a venue found for Saturday to have the bout again at the Cambridge Baptist Church. The call went out at 9:30 a.m. that the bout would be at noon. Teams showed up with good-luck charms to help keep the debacle of the previous evening away, and the audience was packed into the church. As a team, we decided for our last round to do a five-person love poem to poets and audiences that received a standing ovation, but we still claimed 5th place while Providence won and qualified for finals against Columbus, New York City and Denver. And the winner of the whole tournament? Our neighbors in Colorado, Denver's SlamNUBA!
Overall, this is the best showing that Salt Lake City has ever made at the National Poetry Slam. Jesse Parent (that's me!) competed in an underground slam at 1 a.m. Friday evening and made it all the way to the semifinal round before being knocked out by eventual winner, Rachel McKibbens. We placed 19 out of 76 teams. We were getting called "Salt Beast." And to think, 5 years ago we placed 2nd to last (take THAT, Kalamazoo! ). We were proud of the work that we performed and of the support we had from Salt Lake City fans and friends to get us out to Boston.
Hopefully, next year we will place last in a bout... on the finals stage!