The Dallas Examiner
The 15th annual Fort Worth Poetry Slam, hosted by Fort Worth Grand Slam champion and two-time National Slam semi-finalist Chuck Jackson, took place at The Dock Bookshop on Jan 26.
Poetry slams are a competition of verses and rhymes. Marc Smith is credited to have started the first poetry slam in 1984 in Chicago, Illinois. The first national slam was held in San Francisco, increasing the popularity of spoken word and motivating individuals to pursue poetry as a career.
This year, the top 10 poets competed in the slam competition. The poets are as follows: Mike Guinn, Sergio ‘Sin’ Tovar, Elle Davis, Shasparay Lighteard, Ester Van Hitchens, All Brenae, Whisper, Chris Brandford, Camille Cola and Imani Brown.
Lighteard is an 18-year-old who traveled from Austin for the opportunity to compete in her first adult spoken word competition.
“I know for sure I’m going to do my poem Big Mouth tonight. That’s about speaking up and using your voice and how I told my story. It really helped me grow into myself and it’s helped other people,” she revealed.
Lighteard’s love for spoken word has taken her across the country.
“I know someone in every state who does poetry and that’s pretty cool. I could say, hey I’m coming to Virginia or I’m coming to Chicago, who’s gonna take me in, and I know someone because I’ve been to all of these national competitions,” she said.
Guinn on the other hand is a more seasoned poet, and revealed he began writing poetry back in 1997.
“I was working as a CPS investigator and I came in one day from a real rough case. It was very emotional and I started writing poetry right then. Dec. 21, 1997, first time I’d ever wrote anything. That was the date,” Guinn said.
“I pretty much just tried to stay away from it to be honest. I thought it was something that men just didn’t do. Poetry? C’mon now, but when God gives you something, you just have to go with it and that’s what I did. It ended up being a very therapeutic outlet for me. After that, someone pointed me towards other people that were doing it and then, myself and those people, we formed the Fort Worth National Poetry Slam in December 2001 and the rest is history. We have traveled all over the world, performing, competing and representing the city and this area at the highest level.”
Janean Livingston, Anthony Douglas and Stacy Beldsoe were the other individuals who helped create the Fort Worth slam alongside Guinn – who explained that they formed the slam because they wanted to be more expressive and that’s what a slam is all about. A slam is more about the performance fused in with the creative writing aspect.
The evening began with an open mic portion to give other poets who were not in the competition a chance to show off their skills. When the slam started, all 10 poets performed. Whether they were talking about relationships, love, sex, life or social issues, all the poets shared one thing in common. Each poem came from the heart and their personal perspective.
Five judges were chosen randomly from the audience. They judged the poets on originality, content and performance on a scale of 0.1 to 9.9 with 10 being the highest. After the first round, only seven poets were left: Guinn, Tovar, Lighteard, Davis, Cola, Brown and Brandford.
To determine the final score, the highest and the lowest score were dropped and the highest cumulative score won the slam. Brown came in fourth place, Guinn came in third place, Davis came in second place and Brandford was the winner of the slam. All five will represent the city of Fort Worth in the National Poetry Slam Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, this August.
Brandford has been writing poetry for about two years now and credits his success to God, whom he looks up to for trust and strength. He also gave advice to upcoming poets.
“Stay true to yourself and put God first because he can give you strength when you don’t even think you have none.”