Words on the page become so much more each week at the Eclectic Truth open mic and poetry slam.
“It’s how well the poem is written, as well as how well the poem is performed,” Poetry Alliance president Donney Rose said of how the poems presented in a slam are judged. “You’re looking for certain nuances, if the performer looks authentic on stage, does it relate to them ...”
The Poetry Alliance, founded in Baton Rouge around 1998, facilitates these weekly gatherings at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. Slam season consists of 13 weeks of competition culminating in selection of Eclectic Truth’s four-person national slam team, who will compete in Oakland, California, in August.
The field of team hopefuls was narrowed to nine aspiring poets in the semi-finals. Those nine will perform in Tuesday night’s finals for the four team spots. And the public is invited to take it all in.
“We’re hoping for 100 people. We’d like every seat filled,” Rose said of Doug Gay’s state-of-the-art Baton Rouge Music Studios.
Rose said finals are typically moved to a different venue than the weekly competitions to give it its own level of prestige.
“And Baton Rouge Music Studios has great sound and great lighting,” he added.
Slam goers can expect to hear and experience a range of emotions.
“Some (poems) are heavy, some funny, some political, personal narratives, everyone brings their own perspective to the stage,” he said.
Although second- and third-year slammers usually fare better with the judges than first-timers, that’s not always the case. The five judges will be selected at random from the audience, leaving room for even more surprises.
“The beautiful thing about a slam is that it’s always a crap shoot. You never know how it’s going to turn out,” he said. “We always tell our judges to trust their gut judgment, so if they hear something in a poem that may personally offend them for some reason, they may not score it as high as something that may validate their beliefs. That’s the importance of having a diverse range of judges.”
Varying ages, genders and races of the panel gives each hopeful an opportunity to appeal to at least one judge, Rose said.