Telling It Like It Is

 

Furious Season and SlamCharlotte bring poetry to life

Bluz and Shannon

by Lisa Moore
photo by Meredith Jones Photography

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words,” said Robert Frost, the late American Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Literally set in stone, poetry is amongst the earliest records of many cultures. Older than writing and orally passed from generation to generation, it has been a vehicle for handing down the stories of people’s struggles, triumphs and cultural events. The development of literacy gave rise to an array of poetic styles, both spoken and written.

Two Charlotte groups are working to make poetry more accessible for artists and audiences alike.

Shannon Barringer, 26, who holds a B.A. in Literature from UNCC, found there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to connect with fellow writers. In January, she started Furious Season, a home-grown quarterly publication that features poetry, short stories and visual art. She has published two issues this year, featuring over 30 local poets. A third issue is coming out in October. The group also does readings of their work.

“Part of what I want to do with Furious Season is to bring writers and those interested in the Charlotte literary arts scene together,” said Barringer. “The idea is we can network with each other, and through that we can challenge and encourage one another.”

The group consists of both professional and amateur poets and writers. “We’ve had some who have published before, or who are already involved in writing programs, which is amazing, but it is so exciting to publish a poem of a writer for the first time,” she stated.

Patrick O’Boyle, 25, has had two of his poems published in Furious season. He enjoys the input he has received from his peers.

“Furious Season has introduced me to some people whose work and work ethic I really respect. When your work is circulating, people will say some nice things about it, but what has really meant something to me are the critiques that I’ve gotten that helped me improve my poems before publication. In that sense it feels like a collaborative process. Critique and time are the only things that will allow you to see your work objectively.”

Barringer says the reaction to her publication has been overwhelmingly supportive. “The feedback I get most often is, ‘Thank you for doing this, we’ve needed something like this for so long.’ It is very encouraging.”

Slam Charlotte was founded in 2003 by Terry Creech who appeared on the HBO television show Def Poet Jam. He wanted to expose Charlotte poets to the art and competition of Slam Poetry, a competitive spoken word style that evolved in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Charlotte’s 2007 and 2008 teams took first place at the National Poetry Slam. At a slam, poets read or recite their own work. Performances are then judged on a numeric scale, Olympic style, by five randomly selected members of the audience – usually by someone who has never been to a slam before. Poets are judged not only on the content of their poem but by delivery. The sky is the limit for topics.

Inkera Oshun, Artistic Director for SlamCharlotte, says their mission is to promote poetic growth, performance enhancement and increased camaraderie among the poets and the community monthly slam competitions. “We also like to push the limits and perceptions of what people think poetry and spoken word is,”
she added.

Oshun says poets come from all walks of life – from convicts to police officers, ministers, stockbrokers, students and housewives, to the homeless. “I think our stage has seen just about everyone, a wide range of ages as well as races. We are inclusive. Anyone who has a desire to perform is given the opportunity.”

In 2009, SlamCharlotte started Speak Up Youth, offering kids ages 13-19 the opportunity to speak up for or against anything they deem important.

Boris “Bluz” Rogers, SlamCharlotte’s current Slam Master, was the 13th ranked individual poet in the world in 2007. He believes slam poetry engages emotion through performance and interpretation.

“I think of the phrase ‘straight from the horses of mouth’ when it comes to slam,” says the 34-year-old who graduated from UNCC with a communications degree. “It’s like hearing a 3 minute and 10 second testimony. It’s a chance to share your heart, your hurt, your truth.”

Furious Season will hold an E.E Cummings themed reading on Sept 18. Submissions for the fall issue are due Sept 26. A release reception for the fall issue will take place Oct 23. For more information visit www.furiousseason.com. Upcoming slams will be held Sept 17 and Oct 15 at Blumenthal Performing Arts Education Institute/McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square. Info:www.SlamCharlotte.com.

Route 81 West
by Furious Season poet Victoria Davis

The Blue Ridge Mountains stretched around me,

Reading like an echocardiogram.

Riding through the green

On roads that undulated like a carousel horse,

Only little sugar-cube houses

In tea-cup saucer valleys

Had integrated themselves into the landscape.

Then, cresting a hill nowhere,

I saw it;

A stark white cross, Bigger than god,

Impaling the leafy middle of the next hill.

Those albino planks, 30 stories high,

Staking out their country;

Telling me exactly where I was.

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