Kudos to the Bull City Poetry Slam Team, sponsored by the St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, for taking top honors during the 18th Annual Southern Fried Poetry Slam earlier this month in Knoxville, Tenn.
The five-member team beat out 23 other teams including those from Tampa, Fla., New Orleans, La., and Knoxville. This year’s team members are: Slam Coach, Chris “Dasan Ahanu” Massenburg, George “G” Yamazawa, Elliott “Axiom” Miley, Kane Smego and Will McInerey.
The team won $3,000 in cash prizes along with MoonPies and RC Cola.
Massenburg, a creative writing instructor at St. Augustine’s College, had a good feeling about this year’s team. “We knew we had a good chance. We only had one newcomer to the team. We’ve been around each other all year. We’ve been performing and writing around each other.”
Poets are given three minutes to step up to the microphone and perform one original poem. No props, costumes or outside accompaniment are allowed. After the poem is finished, it is given a numerical score between zero and 10 by a panel of five judges selected from the audience.
Massenburg, 36, said he started the team off with a poem about his relationship with his alcoholic father called Brown Bag Daddy. Massenburg explained the poem speaks to his fears about his father, who thought he was able to control his drinking, and how Massenburg witnessed the physical deterioration of his dad waging a war with the bottle.
The last poem from the team came from the youngest member, 19-year-old Yamazawa, a Durham Tech student. The team refers to it as The Grandmother Poem. Yamazawa, a Japanese-American, wrote it to pay tribute to his 88-year-old grandmother. It reflects his wonderful memories of her and how she has inspired him.
The Southern Fried Poetry Slam was started by Asheville poet and writer Allan Wolf in 1993. This performance poetry competition, which travels to a different southern city annually, has grown into one of the largest poetry conventions in the nation.
At first, the Southern Fried Slam acted as a regional slam. Wolf wanted people from a variety of backgrounds and ages to participate. He recalls seeing a 10-year-old recite a poem about his puppy, and a Vietnam vet with a cane, who articulated his frustration with the government. In between, an African-American man performed a poem in a hip-hop style.
“Now, the poetry slams are more standardized, urban, in your face, a monologue that has become a sort of soap box, a platform, very issue driven,” Wolf said.
The Southern Fried Slam is still a mix of both. “The great thing about slams is that it widens opinions about what a poem can be,” Wolf says. “Poetry has the ability to speak to everyday wondrous things such as your baby being born, not just the big activist things.”
The Bull City Slam Team will be traveling to Poetry Slam Inc.’s National Poetry Slam in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, Aug. 3, through Saturday, Aug. 7, and is currently fundraising for this trip. If you would like to make a donation, visit http://bullcityslamteam.eventbrite.com.
Bull City Poetry on YouTube: