After four days of explosive competition, a new National Poetry Slam team champion took the crown Saturday night: SlamCharlotte. The finals were held at the Paramount Theatre, a beautiful space in downtown Austin, in front of a packed, raucous crowd of visiting poets and local denizens alike. SlamCharlotte beat out two superb New York teams (Nuyorican and Louder ARTS), as well as Denver Slam Nuba and local favorites Killeen.
The finals were pretty great, even coming from a hater like myself. Milwaukee's incomparable Dasha Kelly did a phenomenal job hosting, the crowd kept the energy up the whole time, and the poets themselves, for the most part, were amazing. Standouts included solo pieces by Louder ART's Roger Bonair-Agard and Rachel McKibbens, both thoughtfully written and chillingly performed, as well as another by SlamCharlotte's Carlos Robson who performed a piece paralleling the war in Vietnam to that in Iraq.
Now that may not seem like the most original idea ever, but in slam it's what you do with your concept that counts. Robson used imagery from The Wizard of Oz and a dynamic, rapid-fire delivery to present a monstrously powerful poem about the psychological and physical effects of war on the soldiers who fight them. The piece was a great example of a poem that has all three of the elements a good one needs: an interesting concept, creative execution and engaging delivery. A lot of the stuff we've seen over the week has had one or two of those elements, but when a poem gets all three, it's something special.
While it would have been nice to compete in finals, watching the show was still pretty fulfilling. As the 2007 national slam is now officially over, the Madison team is flying back Sunday, and all of us will be heading straight to our notebooks and laptops and cocktail napkins to write new stuff.
To end this entry, I'll try my hand once more with a little video. This on-the-scene clip includes some more commentary, as well as a new piece, newly sprouted from the fertile poetry fields of Austin.