September 23, 2020

PoetryslamBY MATT HOWELL

Walking into the backroom of the Candy Funhouse Sept. 13, I was instantly taken aback by the turnout. The Preston part of Cambridge has always been a hub for artists, but having a place to showcase their art has always been an issue, especially for a poetry slam that hadn’t been attempted there before.

I paid my $5 and took a seat next to a couple and their little boy. He was more interested in the game he was playing on dad’s cellphone, but the parents were entrenched in the poet who was behind the microphone. I stared around the room and saw that all eyes were set upon a young girl expressing hardships through words charged with emotion. I found out quickly that instead of claps and yells that happen at a music concert, when a slam poet says something you agree with you snap your fingers and quietly shout things like “say it poet.”

The topics covered by all the poets I had the pleasure of seeing was as diverse as the people saying them. Sexual assault, fear, death, loss and an angry letter from mother earth were all discussed in great detail with concentrated rage and passion. You could look at anyone in the crowd and see that the feelings and opinions being presented had been thought or experienced by the audience as well. Heads were nodding in agreement as the poets told their stories in their own unique ways. Some of them had to use the microphone due to a low and soft speech style, but the words they used and the sentiment behind those words made up for that entirely. Others roared like lions as they spoke of pass indignities done to them, and done around them.

During a quick break, I was lucky enough to get to listen to them talk to each other outside. There were words of endearment and hugs being thrown around with complete authenticity. I spoke to one young man named Jeff Guichelaar who told me that this was only his second time performing in a slam, but that he had been writing for over two years.

“The turnout was bigger at the first slam I went to, but that was in Kitchener which has a bigger scene,” Guichelaar said.

I found out more about poetry slams in one evening than I ever knew before. Did you know that there are poetry slam nationals? Poetry slam teams compete around the country in front of massive crowds. It appears to be a much bigger scene than I could of ever imagined. And thanks to people like Moe Hejazi, owner of Candy Funhouse, this scene is now once again in Cambridge.

“There was a scene in Cambridge before but the place shut down where they used to have it,” Hejazi said. “To be a part of a slam team you have to compete once a month for quite awhile. I’m hoping to be able to give them a place to do that,” Hejazi said.

Poetry slams have been going on for years. There was a term, beatniks, that was used years ago to describe these patrons of words, but I like to call them verbal warriors. It takes a lot of inner strength to get up in front of a crowd of strangers and tell your extremely personal story. The people who took part in this evening of laughs and tears seemed almost reborn after they spoke.

After I left the slam I felt compelled to grab a pen and pad to jot down some potential ideas of self-expression. I think we could all use a platform to get things off of our soul’s chest. Everyone has complications in life and attending a slam could help you realize that you are not alone in those struggles. So next time you’re looking to have your heartstrings tugged or you want to be the one doing the tugging, check out a poetry slam.

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