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Pigeon Poetry slam wow’s audience

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On Mar. 7 at 8:30 p.m., a diverse group of slam poetry lovers joined at the PhilaMOCA venue located at 12th and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia. The venue was voted best of Philly in 2013 and it comes as no surprise why.

The entrance to the theater is through a side door, easily missed by the casual onlooker. The only indication this was a venue for a poetry slam was the paper-made flyer taped to the outside of the door that indicated this was the Pigeon Poetry Slam venue. The low-key style of the venue perfectly matched the intent of the program. Audience members felt as though they were entering into an exclusive club, known only to insiders.

Upon entering the theater, those in attendance paid $10 a piece for entrance, or $10 between every pair of students, which was paid at the table located directly upon entering the theater. Music played as audience members found their seats, which were seated in front of a stage with couches facing each other on either side of the stage and two microphones. Audience members were invited to sit on the couches on the stage.

The night began at 7:30 p.m., an hour before the actual show, with a slam poetry workshop. At 8:30, the workshop ended, and those in attendance were invited to put their name into a hat to be selected as one of the 10 competing slam poetry performers. By 9 p.m. the show was in full swing, and we were in for a great night.

Slam poetry is a competition among poets who perform original works in front of an audience and judges without the use of notes or any additional materials. Slamming is more than just reciting poetry; it is a performance, and involves the use of body language and motion that help to convey the meaning of the piece. In response, the audience snaps, claps, or encourages the speaker with various other responses throughout the piece. Slam poetry draws in large crowds of people and brings people of all background together to enjoy in the talents and strengths of others and to help make people better performers.

Pigeon Poetry hosts this monthly event the first Friday of every month, spanning the months of October through May. From each of these slam competitions, performers are given point values based on their ranking in the night. At the end of the months, the top eight poets with the most points at the end of the regular season are then selected to compete in Pigeon Poetry’s Grand Slam Finals.

Jacob Winterstein and Alyesha Wise began the Pigeon Poetry Slam competition to help improve the writing and performance of the poets in Philly. Potential slammers put their name into a hat. Ten poets are selected to perform in the first of three rounds. Five random judges in the audience are given whiteboards and dry erase markers and give the performers scores from 1 through 10 with one decimal point away. Those scores determine which four of the ten will continue on to the second round. From there, two final poets are selected to perform on stage – both are on stage at the same time. After this final round, judges write either a 1 or a 2 on their boards to indicate which of the two they feel had the best overall performance.

Friday’s poetry slam featured Thuli Zuma, a South African actor, writer, and poet who placed second in the 2012 Individual World Poetry Slam. She has also represented New York at the 2013 National Poetry Slam, and represented the United States of America at the 2013 World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris where she placed 6th. She is also the 2013 Urbana New York Grand Slam Champion.

The types of poems performed varied across a number of different subjects. The first poet opened with a poem about his life of being awkward and the challenges he faces because of his body posture and way of life. He assisted the meaning of his words through the use of jutted and exaggerated pauses, which were, indeed, awkward. The speaker did not make eye contact with the audience throughout the entire performance, and the ending of his piece stopped practically midsentence. He walked off of the stage to uproarious applause. Another speaker recited a poem about her weight, turning the nuisance of pestering and incessant questions from strangers about being pregnant into a comical performance. Some performances were funny, others were serious, but most had a combination of those emotions and more, breaking tension with sarcasm or repeating a theme, a word, or a metaphor throughout the duration of the performance. The final two poets performed pieces that covered more serious topics. The first performer’s poem talked about two lovers, one of whom is presumed to be her good friend or relative. The speaker began her poem with the words, “No, I don’t think you two would have gotten married.” It is only until the last lines of the poem that we learn the person who asked for advice from the speaker has actually been in a very serious car accident, and the speaker herself was driving behind them when it happened.

The second poet spoke about the affects of Hurricane Sandy, taking on the role of someone whose hometown was completely destroyed. Her poem was rich with metaphors as she led her audience through memories of items and lives destroyed, zeroing in on what the audience presumes was her own family.

Throughout the performances, the audience remained attentive, cheering on their favorite performers through snapping, clapping, and offering phrases of encouragement such as “mhm” throughout the performances. When the presenters received their scores, the audience never shied away from expressing their negative thoughts towards low scores, or grandiosely and enthusiastically cheering on the high scores.

The night was spectacular and was a wonderful way to celebrate the talents of those in the Philadelphia and surrounding areas. For more information on Pigeon Poetry’s upcoming events, visit <>. PhilaMOCA is located at 531 N. 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19123.

Laura is a fourth-year student majoring in English with minors in international buisness and technical writing. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The Student News Service of West Chester University
Pigeon Poetry slam wow’s audience