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Slam your poetic style at CMC

The first poetry slam took place in November 1984, in Chicago. Since then, the form has made the art of rhyme, rhythm and images accessible to more than literary majors and closeted sensitives.

In fact, it’s drawn “ranting hipsters, freestyle rappers, bohemian drifters, proto-comedians, mystical shamans and Gothy punks,” wrote Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, slam poet and author of “Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam.”

Though Colorado Mountain College doesn’t throw a traditional slam, which is characterized by competition and judges, its Fourth Annual Poetry Slam gives anyone an opportunity to express thoughts, feelings and artistic endeavors.



Summit campus dean Alton Scales, a competitive slammer from Austin, Texas, brought the first slam to CMC in 2008. CMC hosts it on St. Patrick’s Day to honor “the very verbal Irish love of puns, poems and political rants,” said Joyce Mosher, associate professor of English communications and event organizer.

“Poetry is one of the unsung artistic endeavors,” said Gary Lindstrom, adjunct faculty in social and behavior science. “It is mostly a solitary act and oftentimes never sees the light of day. The poetry slam is a performance art where the participants can have the public spotlight shine on their work. It is one of the few venues that poets have today.”



And it seems to have taken hold in the High Country. More than 80 people attended last year’s slam, with about 20 presenters. Styles of poetry range from romantic to rap, rhyme to freeform, life stories to political protests, and topics include nature, travel and relationships, Mosher said.

“Past participants have virtually given readings on just about anything they want to present,” Lindstrom said. “It is not a free for all, but it is an opportunity for unencumbered free expression.”

This year, the college offers workshops for writers “to move their poems from paper to performance,” Mosher said. The two remaining workshops help people practice their verse and get feedback. However, attendance at a workshop is not necessary to participate in the slam.

“Don’t worry: Adrenaline will carry even first-time performers through their public readings,” Mosher said. “The slam audience is made up of poetry lovers, people who just want to hear original, local, creative expressions. Newcomers and seasoned readers enjoy a warm reception.”

And that’s partly why CMC keeps it noncompetitive; organizers prefer it to be more of a showcase – one that always surprises, Mosher said. “With the diverse backgrounds and experience of Summit County people, you never know what’s coming next.”

“As with any literature, (poetry) is an expression of our life and times,” Lindstrom said. “We are able to see into the thoughts and feelings of poets that hopefully reflects what is going on in the world and the community.”

The Slam – like any spoken poetry – brings written rhythms and stories alive, Mosher said.

And Lindstrom adds with a smile: “People who do not come to the poetry slam at CMC will have lost an experience of a lifetime, or at least in recent months.”

In addition, slam performers may submit their work for publication in Rocky Mountain Reflections, the CMC arts and literary journal.


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