Byline: Barbara Vitello Daily Herald Staff Writer
Slam Poetry is nothing if not democratic.
It takes the form of free verse, haiku, sonnet, limerick and styles yet undefined.
Its faces include men and women, African Americans and Asians, Caucasians and Hispanics, Ivy Leaguers and eighth grade drop-outs, gay people and straight.
And next week, they converge on Chicago by the hundreds when the National Poetry Slam Championship returns to the city where it was born.
Marc Smith, poet and host of the famed Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill, originated this literary equivalent of a boxing match in the mid-'80s as a competitive counterpart to open mic poetry readings.
In the years since, slam poetry (also known as spoken word or performance poetry) has caught on not only around the country but around the world as well.
"The beauty of the slam is that it embraces all," says Reggie Gibson, the defending individual national champion and a member of the Green Mill team. "If you win, you've won regardless of age or experience."
Alternating between heartfelt, heartbreaking and humorous (often within the same piece), the slam frees poetry from the ivory tower and releases it to the masses who determine the champ.
So with slam's heavyweight title on the line, we discuss the state of the art with Reggie Gibson, Maria McCray and Dennis Kim, three of eight local contenders set to slug it out in Chicago next week. May the best poet win.
The 'aspiring poet'