An opportunity for poets to perform three minute poems for judging by audience members, a slam incorporates elements from theater, stand-up comedy and storytelling.
“Poets feed off of each other’s energy and performances are often humorous, personal, visceral, and inspiring. And the entire audience gets engaged, encouraged to vocalize agreement or disagreement with the judges,” said M. Ayodele Heath, the winner of the first Roswell poetry slam nine years ago.
Called Slammin’ in the Suburbs, it is one of the premiere events associated with the Roswell Roots Festival, a month-long series of programs and activities celebrating African American history, art and culture. It’s been held in Roswell in February, which is Black History Month, for the past 11 years and is now the largest and most comprehensive festival of its kind in Georgia.
Slammin’ in the Suburbs always attracts an enthusiastic audience. “The Roswell poetry slam is one of the coolest events in all of north Atlanta,” said Roswell Cultural Arts Board member Lee Walker. “Usually the word poetry elicits the same Pavlovian snooze response as opera, symphony and ballet. Not to be overly critical of these highbrow pursuits of art, it’s just that they tend to be mostly inaccessible to the masses.
“So how does one make poetry exciting, accessible and still deep and thought provoking? Easy. Make it short, shocking and competitive.”
Heath, who now emcees Slammin’ in the Suburbs each year, said poetry slams democratize poetry by taking it out of the ivory towers and putting the power in the hands of the common people. Five audience members are chosen at random to score poets from 0 to 10.
“Thus, the opinion of the janitor or barber carries the same weight as that of the professor or doctor,” he said.
This year’s $1,000 top prize, the highest to date, will attract the region’s top poetry slam talent, said Heath, including the previous number one and number two ranked female poetry slam poets in the world.
“This will be the most riveting three-hour performance you will get and not pay for,” he said.
Slammin’ in the Suburbs will be Feb. 21 at Roswell Historic Cottage, 972 Alpharetta St. Participant sign up is at 6 p.m. and the slam begins at 7 p.m.
The 12th annual Roswell Roots Festival gets underway with a Unity Concert Feb. 1, 7 p.m. at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 725 Pleasant Hill St. Choirs from several area churches, will perform and Soweta Street Beat will present dance and music styles that stem from South African ethnic groups.
“It is often said that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in the states because church services are mostly divided among racial lines. The Unity Choir is an opportunity to see Christian fellowship as God meant it to be and as such it is a time for everyone to rejoice,” said Vernelle Ethridge of Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist.
There are exhibits and programs throughout the entire month. One of the highlights will be Feb. 15, when Freddy Cole is in concert at Roswell Cultural Arts Center, 950 Forrest St., at 8 p.m.
Cole, whose brother was Nat “King” Cole, leads a quartet and plays piano and sings with a suave, elegant style. Tickets are $27 for reserved seating. For tickets visit www.roswellpresents.com or call (770) 594-6232.
For a complete list, go to www.roswellroots.com. For more information, call (770) 641-3705.