Poetry slam’s big prize bringing poets from all over country

Posted April 24, 2013, at 7:03 p.m.

UNITY, Maine — Drama. Suspense. Glory.

Poetry.

As the hours tick down until the opening words are heard Friday night in Unity College’s first-ever earth week poetry slam, organizer and poet Michele Leavitt said participants are getting ready — and even getting a little nervous. In part, that’s because the Imagine Unity — Slam for the Future has high stakes, and is attracting poets from as far away as Denver who will compete for prizes totaling more than $1,500.

“There’s a certain amount of anxiety, but a lot of enthusiasm,” Leavitt said of the student poets who will be participating. “I often say, ‘Poetry is the map of the human heart.’ And slam poetry is that map up on the stage.”

According to the website of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees the events, poetry slam is the “competitive art of performance poetry.” Participants must combine writing and performing to focus on not only what they say but also how they say it, and will be judged by five impartial people who are selected from the audience.

One element that is integral to a good poetry slam is the audience, Leavitt said, with participation and response encouraged.

“In a lot of ways, a slam performance is all about the audience,” she said.

So far, 24 people have pre-registered for the event. Those include Unity College’s own Jennifer Michaud, a student poet who just took home top honors in the women’s collegiate division of the Stihl Timbersports northeast division competition.

“She’s an excellent poet,” Leavitt said of the lumberjill. “She uses a lot of woodsy imagery. ‘You just chainsawed my heart.’”

The event is one of a series of special activities held this year during National Poetry Month, which is being funded by the K2 Family Foundation, a Port Clyde-based nonprofit organization that aims to support more creative and sustainable ways of living.

Because of that support, the top prize winner will receive $1,000.

“It’ll be very high stakes and high energy,” Leavitt said. “It’s going to be a blast.”

Imagine Unity — Slam for the Future will begin with a poetry open mike event at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, in the Student Center at 90 Quaker Hill Road in Unity.

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