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Wednesday, April 16, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 51.0° F  Overcast and Windy
Arts

SPOKEN WORD

Day two scores from National Poetry Slam 2008 in Madison
Madison team remains in contention with nearly two-thirds of prelims complete


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The second night of preliminary competition in the National Poetry Slam kept downtown Madison stages and clubs busy as the first round of bouts wrapped up and the second opened on Wednesday night. The bout winners were: Soap Boxing from St. Paul; Southflavas from Austin; Slamtopia from New Paltz, New York; H-Town Slam from Houston, Oakland Poetry Slam, Silver City Slam from New Mexico; SlamCharlotte; HawaiiSlam from Honolulu; Denver Mercury Slam; Berzerkely from Berkeley; Loser Slam from Lincroft, New Jersey; and Downtown from Phoenix.

The top twenty teams from the first two rounds of the slam, which run through Thursday night, will move on to the semifinals on Friday at the Overture Center. The selection is based upon the teams' placement in the bouts rather than overall score totals, due to variation in judging styles and standards between events.

For example, National Poetry Slam 2007 winner SlamCharlotte is currently leading the competition with two first place finishes, followed by another half-dozen teams with both a first and second place showing in their preliminary bouts. Total scores will be used as a tiebreaker, though, to separate any teams on the bubble.

The Madison team opened its slam with a bout at MMoCA, where it finished behind H-Town Slam and ahead of squads from San Antonio and Manchester, New Hampshire. A score of 107.9 currently places the hometown favorites 24th place in the standings and a shot at moving on, but will require team members to score high in their second bout for a shot at making the next round. "As long as they get first or second place they're looking really good for the semifinals," says Dasha Kelly, one of the national slam organizers and the slam master for Milwaukee.

Mecca from Milwaukee finished fourth in its second bout, meanwhile, bringing the team to a combined placing of 6 when factoring it its second place showing on Tuesday. This places the team in the middle of the pack. Without another preliminary bout to boost its score, though, this Wisconsin team will not moving on in the slam.

The complete listing of scores is provided here by the National Poetry Slam, and the teams are currently ranked as follows:

Wednesday Results and Standings
Bout 1 Bout 2 as of Wed eve
New York UR 1 118.2 New York UR 1 118.2
Denver NU 1 116.8 Denver NU 1 116.8
Oakland 1 114.2 Oakland 1 114.2
San Francisco 1 114.1 San Francisco 1 114.1
Denver DM 1 113.9 Denver DM 1 113.9
New Paltz 1 113.7 New Paltz 1 113.7
San Diego 1 112.6 San Diego 1 112.6
New York LA 1 112.1 New York LA 1 112.1
Houston HT 1 110.8 Houston HT 1 110.8
Austin SF 1 109.6 Austin SF 1 109.6
Chicago MG 1 107.4 Chicago MG 1 107.4
Atlanta 1 107.3 Atlanta 1 107.3
Silver City 1 105.7 Silver City 1 105.7
St. Paul 1 101.2 St. Paul 1 101.2
Charlotte SC 1 108.5 Charlotte SC 1 109.2 2 217.7
Los Angeles 2 116.0 Los Angeles 2 116.0
Charlotte RD 2 113.8 Charlotte RD 2 113.8
Amarillo 2 113.2 Amarillo 2 113.2
New York NU 2 112.9 New York NU 2 112.9
Killeen 2 112.3 Killeen 2 112.3
Richmond SR 2 111.3 Richmond SR 2 111.3
Montevallo 2 109.3 Montevallo 2 109.3
Baltimore 2 109.1 Baltimore 2 109.1
Madison 2 107.9 Madison 2 107.9
Hampshire 2 107.8 Hampshire 2 107.8
Detroit BP 2 106.5 Detroit BP 2 106.5
Worcester 2 106.3 Worcester 2 106.3
Cleveland 2 103.3 Cleveland 2 103.3
Minneapolis 2 97.3 Minneapolis 2 97.3
Berkeley 2 111.2 Berkeley 1 111.4 3 222.6
Lincoln 1 111.4 Lincoln 2 108.9 3 220.3
Austin AP 1 111.2 Austin AP 2 107.9 3 219.1
Boston CT 1 108.9 Boston CT 2 107.4 3 216.3
Lincroft 2 107.6 Lincroft 1 103.5 3 211.1
Durham 1 97.8 Durham 2 108.9 3 206.7
Decatur 3 114.5 Decatur 3 114.5
St. Louis 3 112.9 St. Louis 3 112.9
OKC 3 110.9 OKC 3 110.9
Dallas DP 3 110.3 Dallas DP 3 110.3
Albuquerque 3 109.7 Albuquerque 3 109.7
Fayetteville 3 107.6 Fayetteville 3 107.6
White Plains 3 107.4 White Plains 3 107.4
San Antonio 3 107.2 San Antonio 3 107.2
Portland 3 106.9 Portland 3 106.9
Philadelphia 3 105.8 Philadelphia 3 105.8
Spartanburg 3 105.3 Spartanburg 3 105.3
Boston LL 3 105.0 Boston LL 3 105.0
Orlando 3 102.8 Orlando 3 102.8
Seattle 3 96.7 Seattle 3 96.7
Phoenix 3 103.4 Phoenix 1 109.4 4 212.8
Toronto 2 95.9 Toronto 2 100.5 4 196.4
Salt Lake 4 111.8 Salt Lake 4 111.8
Houston HP 4 110.2 Houston HP 4 110.2
Kalamazoo 4 108.8 Kalamazoo 4 108.8
Delray Beach 4 106.6 Delray Beach 4 106.6
Springfield 4 106.1 Springfield 4 106.1
Manchester 4 105.3 Manchester 4 105.3
Maui 4 103.6 Maui 4 103.6
Flagstaff 4 103.2 Flagstaff 4 103.2
Buffalo 4 102.6 Buffalo 4 102.6
Cincinnati 4 101.1 Cincinnati 4 101.1
Vancouver 4 100.7 Vancouver 4 100.7
Tucson 4 100.5 Tucson 4 100.5
Eureka 4 98.9 Eureka 4 98.9
Richmond NA 4 88.8 Richmond NA 4 88.8
Honolulu 4 104.5 Honolulu 1 111.0 5 215.5
Detroit EC 3 106.1 Detroit EC 2 108.9 5 215.0
Columbus WB 3 107.1 Columbus WB 3 107.1 6 214.2
Columbus BP 2 109.3 Columbus BP 4 103.7 6 213.0
Milwaukee 2 104.4 Milwaukee 4 105.3 6 209.7
Chicago GM 3 93.2 Chicago GM 3 107.2 6 200.4
Fort Worth 4 105.2 Fort Worth 3 99.7 7 204.9
Boise 4 100.7 Boise 3 103.9 7 204.6
Sacramento 3 105.9 Sacramento 4 98.5 7 204.4
Mesa 4 105.1 Mesa 4 99.6 8 204.7
Paris 4 98.7 Paris 4 102.9 8 201.6

As was the case on Tuesday, slam team members published online reports about theirs and others' bouts. Joining in the commentary for the second night of the slam were a pair of judges, who are drawn from the crowd watching the slam.

It is the comments of this judge, who was on duty for the Madison bout, that provides one of the more interesting perspectives from the night. "It was my lowest score of the night," noted the judge about a 6.0 that she gave to a Madison group piece by Evy Gildrie-Voyles, Josh Healey, and Danez J. Smith that received a standing ovation in the middle of the bout. The performance was a tongue-in-cheek lampooning of "The Man" and the attitudes about this fabled force in society, a piece that was definitely geared towards playing for laughs.

"Well it was awful," she declared, describing the tone of the piece as sarcastic and self-righteous. "It felt contrived to me and if they had done it with sincerity and actually allowed themselves to risk and feel what it is like to be the establishment and don't think any of us couldn't feel the pull at times their piece would have been hysterical, moving and powerful but tonight it was merely a could have been."

Other judges, who gave the piece scores of 8.3, 9.0, 9.4, and 10.0 clearly disagreed, as did the audience. The 6.0 was moot, as both the highest and lowest scores are dropped as outliers for the purposes of calculating final bout rankings, but the judges comments show both the breadth of responses that can be found to a given piece at a slam, as well as the perspective of sitting in the hot seat amidst a very vocal audience.

A spectator who ventured into the Evjue Stage at the Bartell Theatre caught a bout between teams from New Paltz, St. Louis, Kalamazoo, and Amarillo, and ended up sticking around for the second slam of the evening. "Then the MC asked if anyone was no affiliated with the groups to be a judge," she noted. "There weren't many non affiliated bystanders like myself and so I ended up being a judge."

This bout featured the famed Nuyorican Poets Café from New York City, who finished second behind Denver Mercury Slam and ahead of teams from Albuquerque and Delray Beach, Florida. The newly minted judge explained her approach to scoring:

The night went fast. There were a lot of poems about race, one about love in Texas, two about the Mexican immigrant experience, the pharmaceutical industry and several about god. I'll admit those get old fast. As do the ones where the person talks so fast that you don't have any idea what they are talking about except for the line or two about race relations that they slow down to stoke the crowd. I judged based on creativity, presentation and originality of the poems rather than the typical knee jerk to get a reaction poems. Over all though, I think I liked the group of folks in the first bout that I didn't judge because they were based more on personal stories and experience. I liked those. Those spoke to me and seemed more honest, beautiful and meaningful.
The judge also remarked upon the volume of noise at the slam, as well as her plans to attend the Nerd Slam festival event on Thursday afternoon and hope to attend another bout next year. She's in luck, as the National Poetry Slam is scheduled to return to Madison in 2009.

Meanwhile, an Austin Poetry Slam team member who is blogging his experiences at the competition reported on the squad's second place finish to Phoenix on Wednesday at the Brink Lounge. This puts the Texas team in a good position to reach the next round. "If we don't make semifinals," he explains, "we're locked for a spot in the Group Piece finals, because each of our first two nights our group pieces were ranked first." In addition to describing his teammates performances at the bout, he also proclaimed the "sexy chaos" of the Decathlon Slam, a late night event held at the Bartell Theatre.

While shooting videos of the bouts is tightly regulated by the event's organizers with Poetry Slam Inc., this doesn't preclude shooting clips outside of the event proper. Eric "Zork" Alan and "Sweetie," the Slammaster and Assistant Slammaster for the White Plains Poetry Slam team from the New York City exurb, have published a vlog from their hotel that costars the three-time HBO Def Jam poet Big Poppa E.

One poet reported on the nights results for the four teams from northern California. The San Francisco team had the night off after winning on Tuesday, and the Sacramento squad finished fourth, eliminating it from competition. Both the Oakland and Berkeley teams won big, meanwhile, giving all three Bay Area teams at least one first-place finish in the opening rounds. This isn't surprising considering the region has long been a hotbed of poetry slam since its birth. However, these results also will give the host team a serious challenge should it hope to make the semis.

The Madison slam team will compete in its second bout -- a bout of death as the standings go so far -- on Thursday night when it takes on squads from Amarillo, Oakland, and San Francisco at 10 p.m. in the Brink Lounge.

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