MARICOPA — The Maricopa Arts Council and Honeycutt Coffee are welcoming poets to Maricopa from around the state to participate in the fourth-annual All-Arizona Poetry Slam Championship later this month.
In preparation for the big event, seven lucky poets were selected at random on Friday to join the ranks of the 14 total participants in the slam.
Representatives who were previously selected include winners from Phoenix Slam, Sedona Slam, Surprise Wham, Flagstaff Slam and Arizona State University’s Arizona Masters in Poetry, as well as two crowned performers from the All-Maricopa Poetry Slam, Stacy Eden and Marquita Edwards.
In addition, four waitlist poets will be selected to perform during the intermission of the finale.
The winners of Friday’s drawing — some identified by their stage names only — were Tempest Juliet, Naughty A. Mouse, Kemlyn, Nathaniel Dossantos, Jessica Ballantyne, Lydia Gates and Evan Dissinger.
On Jan. 25, the competitors will meet again at Honeycutt Coffee by twilight and duke it out in a war of words. The slam will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. with another artist performing an “art-on-the-spot” painting event preceding the poetry contest at 5:30 p.m.
Attendees pay $5 at the door, but be warned, audience members may find themselves as judges. The five randomly selected judges from the crowd will then get to choose the fate of the poets based on both performance and requirements.
Poets will need to prepare three poems for the three rounds, first with 14 contestants, then nine and finally with the top five. They will battle for the coveted prizes of $400 for first place, $250 for second and $150 for third as well as the bragging rights of being the All-Arizona Poetry Slam Champion.
The only two restrictions are, each poem must be the artist’s own creation and the poem cannot be over three minutes long. But MAC co-director and co-founder Judith Zaimont, who also works closely with the All-Arizona Poetry Slam team, says those aren’t the only important factors to consider.
“It is a performing and a creative art at the same time. You have to really sell these poems, ideas and how they are fleshed out to your audience. You can’t use props, you can’t use music, you can’t use scenery, and you can’t use nudity — they tried that once at the national slam,” Zaimont said.
“There needs to be something compelling in the ideas behind this poem, and also then in the way that it is delivered. That’s a high bar for any one person to achieve, and that’s why we value these performing poets.”
Despite the no-nudity stipulation, Zaimont stresses that these poems are not G-rated, and many use their own personal troubles and political issues to draw inspiration from. For example, in the past, one poet spoke about the treatment and payment of Arizona teachers.
“These can be close to the bone in their rawness, but mostly our poets are very respectful and we don’t have anybody who’s gone over the bounds so far in these years of offering slams,” Zaimont said.
This year promises to be no different, and now, with the finalists chosen, the artists will work hard this month to spin sweet stories into speech and work wonders with their writing in time for the big finale.