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The World's Most Famous Slam Team Assembles in Albuquerque for a National Poetry Slam Competition

"Poetry Slams are poetry competitions that started in the mid eighties in Chicago by a construction worker named Marc Smith (So What?!?!), where poets present their original work and are judged on a scale of zero to ten."  


These famous words have rung out in bars, cafes, and theaters around the world for four decades now.  Since the mid eighties "Slam Poetry" has emerged as not just a competition format for presenting original poetry, but a full blown style of performance art and international subculture.


March 21-24, Albuquerque New Mexico will welcome individuals and teams of slam poets from across the country to the Cicada Poetry Slam Festival for a weekend of the most riveting poetry performances of the year.  (For more info on the festival visit: www.cicadapoetryslamfestival.com)


What they don't know yet is that 4 of the most famous slam poets in the world have come together to support the world of slam poetry's rebirth in our new post-covid world.




Slam Poetry & Covid 19


Historically, poetry slam teams were formed at local poetry slam venues that had regular competitions and kept track of the individual scores made by poets over the course of a full year.  The top ranking poets would compete in an invitational "final slam" where the top 5 poets would become the team for that chosen year.


As a "Slam Poetry Team", in each round in the competition the team can send up an individual poet to perform "a solo piece" or can decide to send up "a group poem"/"a team piece" where multiple or all of the members may take the stage to present the piece together.



Enjoy this team poem presented in 2017 at

the National Poetry Slam Group Piece Finals by

the "PuroSlam" slam team titled "Mexican-American".




As Covid 19 ravaged the country's small businesses and our ability to gather at live shows, the poetry slams across America were likewise devastated, with a majority of them shutting down.   A few of the historical slams were able to survive like the Nuyorican (New York, NY - www.nuyorican.org) and Da Poetry Lounge (Hollywood, CA - www.dapoetrylounge.com), but most worked to retain their collection of artists and fans through the lock-down phase of the past several years unsuccessfully. 


Eventually the shut down caused major emotional burnout to the veteran organizers from having to find new venues, build new audiences, and cultivate new circles of artists, and the world of slam poetry went through a few years of scarcely populated zoom readings and socially distanced poetry in the park events.




Slam Poetry's Reemergence in a Post-Covid World


In 2023 the world of Slam Poetry began to come back into bloom, seeing touring poets getting back out on the national circuit, but the landscape was completely different.  In the reemergence of a national slam poetry scene, a whole new generation of leaders has stepped in and started organizing local slams in their own areas and neighborhoods who don't know of "the world of slam poetry", but only what they grew up watching on Def Poetry Jam & YouTube channels like Write About Now (https://www.writeaboutnowpoetry.com) and Button Poetry (https://buttonpoetry.com).  


This new generation of leaders are tired and bored with "the old ways" of organizing slam teams through the stringent processes and requirements of having to hold regular slams, track scores, and report them to a centralized body that keeps the records and holds the power to declare a team "official" or not.  Young minds are finding new ways and reasons to form collectives to make group art pieces and pass the spirit of poetry slam on to the future generations to come. 




     

Modern poetry slam teams are being formed across the country by small groups of poets who vet their team however they find appropriate.  Some venues still hold competitions that require people to perform and either make it on the top five team spots, or not; while some teams are being formed by artistic friends and poets who just enjoy collaborating with each other.  


With the Cicada Poetry Slam Festival in Albuquerque New Mexico in March, teams that register are allowed to form however they choose to gather their collective, with no limitations.  Thus, a few of the old veterans of poetry slam conspired to bring the spirit and the culture back around to help revitalize this generation of poets and cheer them on through this new explosion of poetry in the world at large.




The League of Legends: Who, How, & Why 


Remembering that slam culture has only had 4 decades to develop, rise, fall, redevelop, go international, and get struck down by covid… a lot has happened in that time, yet there are still a lot of "first times" to be had in slam because of it's super structured past versus the new generation of leaders.  Never before in the history of slam were slam teams allowed to hand pick their favorite poets and take it out to "an official" "National Poetry Slam Event", but since the fall of Poetry Slam Inc., as a controlling national body, new possibilities for entertainments are possible!


Four legendary veterans of the slam poetry world have conspired to support the Cicada Poetry Slam Festival by coming together to perform, cheer on the entire community, teach workshops, and mentor the next generation with the love and support which cultivated them early in their careers.


  • The Father of HipHop Slam Poetry: Billy Tuggle

  • The World's Most Loved Slam Poet: Mighty Mike Mcgee

  • The Intercontinental Phenomenon Fire-Starter: Tshaka Menelik Imhotep Campbell 

  • The Infamous Road Dog & Longest Touring Slam Poet in History: Seth Walker





"Billy Tuggle (Karma Threesixty) is a vocalist, poet, mentor, student, husband, father, and HipHop culturalist. A member of the multimedia arts collective PolyRhythmic, Tuggle co-founded the Chicago Four Star Poetry Club with Andi Kauth, and has hosted and organized events across the city, from the In One Ear at the Heartland Café to Louder Than a Bomb. His work is widely anthologized, for example in Learn Then Burn (Write Bloody Publishing, edited by Derrick Brown and Tim Stafford), and he has recorded and released three CDs (Flawed Glory (Live Mental Graffiti), Syllabalistics 101 with DJ Risky Bizness, and Turnstyles). Tuggle's first chapbook, Conscience Under Pressure, was published by Fractal Edge Press, and he played himself in the independent film Urban Poet. 


Tuggle has shared music and poetry stages with Saul Williams, KRS-ONE, Brother Everett, and more, and he's represented the Chicago area at the National Poetry Slam for nearly a decade. He's a Rustbelt Regional Champion, a Chicago Grand Slam Champion, a two-time NPS semifinalist, and a Lethal Poetry/Chicago Grand Slam Champion. Not only is Tuggle a celebrated performer but he is also a regular and respected volunteer and mentor at Women of the World Poetry Slam, Louder Than a Bomb, and Brave New Voices. Tuggle has also performed, facilitated workshops, or just spoken with students at universities and colleges across the country, and many middle and high schools in Chicagoland." 








"Mighty Mike McGee is a well-traveled “stand-up poet” and storyteller from San José, California. In the world of poetry slam, he is the first to win both the 2003 National Poetry Slam Individual Grand Championship and the 2006 Individual World Poetry Slam Grand Championship. He has toured very extensively throughout United States, Canada and Europe. Since 2002, he’s covered several hundred thousand miles performing his brand of poetry and humor. 


McGee has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, CBC Radio and Television, and NPR’s Snap Judgment. He was one of the first Americans to perform spoken word at the University of Paris, la Sorbonne in 2005. 


He was appointed Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) for 2018 & 2019. McGee’s first collection of humor and poetry, In Search of Midnight, is available through Write Bloody Publishing. He can be found somewhere between Silicon Valley and Vancouver, B.C. as often as possible."








"Tshaka was one of the 100 monkeys ( Number 37) and does poetry to help speed up the process. It was said that he spat up Ethiopia while getting drunk with Thoth and Jesus. Once he read in a tabloid, that he and Crispus Attucks took the Underground Railroad to a house party in the Bronx and after 2 drinks, invented trap music.


Originally from London England, Tshaka was raised on his father’s teachings of solidarity and brought up on orators the likes of Garvey's ‘Pan-Africanism’ to William Churchill, as such, he adopted his father’s intense love of language. Tshaka began writing poetry long before performing it in an attempt to find his own voice and point of view within the art form.


As a performer, he is recognized as an accomplished artist internationally and performance accolades include not only being a member of the Nuyorican national poetry slam team and the Da Poetry Lounge (DPL) slam team, but also earning the Grand Champion title in San Francisco and Hollywood. He has also been honored with the UK Unsigned Artist award in poetry.


Tshaka is the first black, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate and has authored three books of poetry entitled “TARMAN”, “MUTED WHISPERS”, “STUFF, I will write more”, and  “TUNNEL VISION'' with one more on the way entitled  “LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTER”.  His words have been featured in Bridges Review, BBC UK, Content magazine, Speakeasy vol 1, Liminal Animals, Rigorous magazine, among others.  A city of Milpitas and city of Sunnyvale commendation in the arts award recipient, Tshaka has also collaborated on projects with the World Health Organization (WHO), the De young museum in San Francisco, the NUMU and Triton museums, as well sits on the Board of Directors for Silicon Valley Creates arts council  and Poetry Center San Jose. He has partnered with the Silicon Valley Transit Authority and community members to deliver youth programs centered around expanding poetry and literature.  He has 4 spoken word albums entitled "ONE", “BLOODLINES”, "SKIN vol.1"; and his most recent release "NKISI" is currently available on all streaming platforms.


Tshaka has toured a number of US cities and across the globe, featuring at venues such as the legendary Apollo Theatre and the O2 in London England."








"Starting their career as Houston, Texas’ premiere national poet and Grand Slam Champion of 2007, Seth Walker has earned titles in nearly every state in America at this point. 

In November 2007 Seth Walker was Houston’s premiere national poet and had just claimed Grand Slam Champion, he then left Houston to follow his art and travel across the country to find it…


Since then Seth has performed at nearly every major venue in the country including Da Poetry Lounge (Hollywood, CA), The Green Mill (Chicago, IL), & The Nuyorican (New York, NY). Along the way he won several noteworthy titles such as: Slam Champion of the Utah State Arts Fair Poetry Slam (2009), North Beast Indie Slam Champion (North-Eastern Regional 2010), slamming with the 2010 Austin Poetry Slam Team, as well as as representing Denver Colorado at an international competition.  While traveling with rotating national artists, this notorious “road dog” poet traveled year round, along the way winning many competitions, qualifying for national competitions consistently.  


In 2012 he took 1st place for Denver’s famous Cafe NUBA at the I.W.P.S. Competition, making Seth Walker their Individual World Poetry Slam Champion for 2012. That year he was ranked top 4 in the world.


Seth has been teaching and working with the Beyond Academia Free Skool in Nederland Colorado since its beginning in 2012.  Walker has opened for Damian Marley & The Wailers, Beats Antique, and countless other international acts while working for festivals such as Desert Rocks, Electric Zoo, and Austin Art Outside Fest.  Since settling down, Seth Walker has also become a known playwright, songwriter, musician, and lecturer on topics of art, mysticism, & western esoteric systems. 


Walker's poetry is still nationally celebrated for its raw emotion and its ability to capture the beauty and complexity of everyday life. His work often incorporates elements of nature, and he has been praised for his ability to use the natural world as a metaphor for emotionally esoteric complexities and the reality of the human situation. With 4 published books and countless released music and spoken word album projects, Walker became an FAA certified drone pilot and started a production company to support other artists' music and video visions in 2023.  


Overall, Seth Walker's poetry and career is a testament to the power of the arts and language to evoke deep emotions and connect people to one another. His work is a reminder that even in the midst of pain and hardship, there is still beauty and meaning to be found in the world."












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2 Comments


Congrats!!! Love that Joe is making as pitch deck from this post! wooo!

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Joe Rey
Joe Rey
Feb 25

This is great... I will make a Pitch Deck from this

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