Copper State Poetry Slam 2014 offers a varied representation of local slam-poetry talents

Emily Cimino in photo (Becky Brisley/DD)
Emily Cimino is a member of the Phoenix team for the upcoming Copper State Poetry Slam. According to Cimino, team slams are much more challenging than solo slams. (Becky Brisley/DD)
1850 N. Central Ave.
July 26-27, 2014
7 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday
$10 Saturday, $12 Sunday

Wisps of spoken word will be heard from the Playhouse on the Park on July 26 and 27 for the 2014 Copper State Poetry Slam, an annual event that brings in slam teams from across the state to compete for the championship with their passion and verse.

This is the first time Emily Cimino, one of the poets that represents the Phoenix slam team, is competing in the Copper State slam. The Phoenix team has been practicing as a group of four for a while now, but Cimino said it is a lot more challenging than solo slamming.

“The biggest thing about slamming with four people is that you all have to put in an equal effort,” she said. “It’s easier to do alone because only you are responsible for what happens, but when you’re with a group, you have to work together so you don’t look like idiots.”

Despite the challenge, Cimino said she’s really excited about the slam, adding that she thinks the Sedona team will be the team to beat.

This makes sense, considering the team members representing Sedona, most of whom represented the Phoenix team last year, won the last Copper State competition and won seventh place at the national level.

Most of the Sedona team also regularly shows up at used bookstore Lawn Gnome Publishing’s weekly slams, competing alongside the Phoenix team. Lauren Perry, who is on the Sedona team, talked about the upcoming Copper State slam in between practicing her poem before the bookstore’s slam on Thursday, reciting lines like incantations.

“With a slam like (Copper State), you want to make sure each person has stage time,” she said, abruptly pausing the pacing that accompanied her practice. “However, it’s all about approach. Our approach is that we want to do well.”

The Sedona team has five people this year, which Perry said is beneficial because it allows them to have more group pieces and more variety. Joy Young, another member of the Sedona team, commented on the closeness of the team as a strong factor in their success.

Lauren Perry in photo (Becky Brisley/DD)
Lauren Perry, a member of the Sedona team, stands inside of Lawn Gnome Publishing Thursday. (Becky Brisley/DD)

“Yeah, that’s true,” Perry said. “What is the downfall of a lot of teams isn’t so much their poetry, it’s the fact that they don’t get along.”

Young said that the team has built pieces around the fact that they know each other. The team’s strong bond leads to not only an easier writing process, but several inside jokes.

“When you spend 24 hours in a car with the same people for a weekend, things never stay appropriate,” Young said.

While the slam is the main event, the entire Copper State slam is actually a festival, with different activities including a publishing workshop, a haiku battle hosted by Young, and a nerd slam, hosted by Sedona team member Bernard Schober, more widely known as The Klute.

According to Schober, the nerd slam was created at the National Poetry Slam in 2004 by prominent slammers Shappy Seasholtz and Robbie Q. Telfer. The “nerdy” poet goes before a panel, answers a trivia question based on what type of nerd they classify as, and if they answer it correctly, may proceed to the stage. If incorrect, the audience yells “EXTERMINATE,” imitating a large group of Daleks from long-running sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”

“I brought it to the Phoenix Comicon, and it’s now one of the huge events there,” Schober said.

Jake Friedman, editor-in-chief of local literary magazine Four Chambers Press, is helping run the publishing workshop at the event. He said the goal of the panel is to help slam poets and other writers find alternative and creative ways to disseminate their work.

“So instead of publishing chapbooks or posting on a blog or submitting to literary magazines, maybe people could start writing for local/alternative media, maybe we could work more with state and municipal organizations to incorporate literature into public art,” Friedman said.

This event, and slam poetry in general, is a strong part of the downtown literary scene’s growth. Friedman said that it is essential to have events like the Copper State slam that can show what artists are creating, why slams should be supported and what they mean for the city.

“As people who produce art, it gives us something to aim and strive towards,” he said. “As citizens, it gives us something to take pride in. As people, it gives us an opportunity to simply do something that isn’t drinking, to enjoy ourselves and feel somewhat more alive.”

Editor’s Note: Becky Brisley works at Lawn Gnome Publishing.

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