Sunday, April 15, 2007

Omaha Team Slam Off 04-14-07

Had a great time Saturday night at the Omaha Healing Arts Center checking out the slam off that determines the Omaha Slam Team that will be heading down to Austin this fall. After some open mic stuff, the 11 finalists drew numbers to determine the performance order and five judges at random were selected from the audience. As long as an audience member wasn’t affiliated in any way with a particular poet, they were eligible to be a judge. Whiteboards and dry erase markers were given to each of the five selected judges and they were told to rate each performance from zero to ten, using only one decimal point. After each poet, the judges hold up their scores and the host writes each number down, then announces each score to the crowd. The crowds at poetry slams are very interactive and if the crowd doesn’t like the scores, they let you know. The highest and lowest score from each round gets kicked out and the middle three scores determine the final score for that performance (anywhere from zero to 30). Each poet has three minutes to perform their piece and if they go over, points are deducted, so the last of the judging group is a timekeeper.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. My first real exposure to slam poetry was the documentary “Slam Planet: War of the Words” that we screened at the Omaha Film Festival. I really dug the performances and the characters and thought it seemed like an interesting lifestyle. Two of the local slammers came out to the festival and after our two screenings of the documentary, they got up and did a little slam demo for the audience. After talking to each of them after, they let me know about some of the big performances coming up so I wanted to be sure to check at least one out and I’m totally glad I did. Most of the pieces were fantastic and it’s cool to see the amount of passion on whatever subject given by the poets. The field of 11 went two times, then the field narrowed to seven, then got cut to the final five. The final five will represent Omaha at the nationals in Austin. For the most part, I agree with the five that were chosen, with the possible exception of one, who, for whatever reason didn’t make it into the field of seven. The judging was hit-and-miss and I couldn’t agree with them all.

I will tell you that I’ve spent some time on myspace this morning checking out some of the poets that I liked. Don’t quote me on this, but from memory, I believe the five finalists were Dan Leamen, Jarvis, Katie FS, Zedeka and Johnny Tornado. The one that got screwed and should have made the team was Ross! It was Katie FS and Ross! that came to the Omaha Film Festival this year, so thank you very much to both. Fortunately, Ross! is the captain of the Lincoln team so he will be in Austin anyway.

Great night, tons of fun. There are lots of slam events happening in Omaha. Check out for information and try to catch an event.


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