Posted: October 29, 2015
In celebration of National Poetry Month, Camille Conte, or “CC” as she is known by her friends and fans, is putting on “The Classic Slam” at the TapRoot this Thursday evening. The enthusiasm building around the event from participants, judges and collaborators points to an exciting evening.
Slam poetry came about in the mid-‘80s, initially cradled in Chicago and San Francisco, by the 1990s it had spread like wildfire, even to Alaska. Conte recalls emceeing slams in the early ‘90s at The Fly By Night Club. She also traveled the state with Peter Porco and others bringing slams to Fairbanks and Homer. As slams popped up at national levels, Conte traveled with Alaska's first slam team to Rhode Island for nationals. Trey Josey, who runs Diff3r3nt By D3sign, has been working with youth slams in Anchorage and taking teams to national competitions since 2011. Through Diff3r3nt By D3sign’s efforts, young Alaskans have participated in Brave New Voices international spoken word festivals. The next one to look for is in July 2016 in Washington D.C.
Slam poetry is exciting and often unpredictable. It frees poets from the shackles of academic structure and the practice of workshopping quiet arrays of words into their emotional death on a page. That’s not to say that slam poetry is perfect, but its sense of fearlessness gives poetry a voice out loud, tying it to rhythm, gestures and full unapologetic expression. Slam poetry doesn’t ask permission, and perhaps that is one of the reasons it appeals to young, and young-ish poets; it can often be personal and raw, it can take on issues that push the limits of poetry to a socio-political dimension and it can also be great fun. Sandy Harper, one of the esteemed and star judges, has been part of Anchorage history though her work at Cyrano’s. She has recollections of when slams were first done in Anchorage and is excited to be