Celebrating freedom of expression

by Keith Barber

Celebrating freedom of expression

A young man walked slowly to the stage as the crowd waited in hushed anticipation. Moments later, “The Truth,” as he called himself, burst into verse — his staccato rhythms strafing the audience with verbal machine gun fire. His words, laced with anger and rage, told a story, his story. Then, a young lady, Eurydice White, took the stage and shouts at the audience, “Fuck you, motherfucker!” She then began her heated monologue about cancer, as she explains how the disease took of her loved ones. Then a soft-spoken young man named Eric approached the microphone. My esteem was so poor I could not look up, but something dripped into my eye; Rays of light broke through the sky; it triggered my mind, a feeling so sublime that I still cannot define; Now I seek the a priori, the freedom of experience of light, being; So much potential, all the streaming is for the living. And so it went during the Piedmont Slam, the event formerly known as the Winston-Salem Poetry Slam, held at Krankies Werehouse on Feb. 12. “Free speech is what it’s all about,” Slam Master Bob Moyer told the 50 to 60 attendees. Not just free speech, but a wide variety of speech and performance styles made the event a rousing success, said Moyer. White took the top prize at last week’s event, qualifying her for the Slam Off to be held later this spring. The top four finishers in the Slam Off will represent Winston-Salem at the regional and, hopefully, national competitions this summer. “The creative voice of the community is underserved in this area,” he said. “We’ve got everyone from a 17-year-old to a 60-year-old in this slam, and that’s the way it should be — every race, creed, color, age, especially in our society.” A poet who simply went by the name Ed, who appeared to be in his 60s, shared his wisdom and experience with the audience. The poem he performed for the second round of the competition summed up the reason for poetry slams. Let me hear a poem that doesn’t rhyme; One with metric beat unsure, but assuredly inured to the enduring maturity of adolescent solopsistry and verse, or even worse; Just express yourself, don’t worry if it’s bad; I don’t bad deliberately, but never let poetry get in the way of what you’re trying to say…. The six poets who performed appeared to heed Ed’s advice and the words, meter and rhyme flowed like wine for two solid hours. “If people havesomething to say, this is the place to say it and articulate it so it may spread someplace else,” Moyer said. “This is poetry folk art. This is the anti-academic world of poetry that excites people — that gets people moved, not that makes people think, ‘That’s a great metaphor, what an incredible simile.’ It’s ‘Did that move me or not?’ The criteria for the judges is, ‘Did you like it? Good, just keep liking it.’” By its very nature, poetry slams are political, event organizer Ismael Khatibu said. “All of this is political, having some deep-rooted need for things to happen on a broad-based level,” he said. “This is an opportunity for dialogue, to talk, to engage people.” Khatibu read his poem entitled “November 5,” about his impressions of election night and watching history unfold before his eyes. After the open mic section of the event, Moyer and Khatibu stole a page from Mark Smith, who is widely regarded as the originator of the poetry slam, and selected members of the audience as judges. The contestants performed two poems each, and at the end of the first round White had the lead. Then, when it came her time to perform, she paused and gathered herself before speaking. I wish like Stevie Wonder that I could pull you under with me to see the misery of not having parents and a family that can’t get along with each other; My life is coupled with dire circumstances beyond my control, so don’t look at the smile and the afro and assume you know… Everything about me is unique and concrete; it’s solid like Eurydice, which means ‘broad’ and I try to thank God for my talents and abilities, constantly protecting me and enabling me to see the broadness of everything… I’m not fixated or lubricated by words or ideas; I never fear knowledge but I despise ignorance and arrogance, because nobody is truly worthy of praise except the originator of As, the creator of maps and mathematical equations… My mind is open like the ocean, freely facing the sword, but of course, many of you force your opinion and reject others; That’s why I thanks my mother No, I thanks my dad; No, I thank God for being the parents I never had… When White finished her poem, the crowd expressed its approval with enthusiastic applause. Then, the judges delivered their verdict — perfect 10s and a perfect score on a perfect night for the spoken word.

Ismael Khatibu, (left) one of the organizers of Piedmont Slam spokenword competition, performs an original work during the open mic portionof the event, which was held Feb. 12 at Krankies Werehouse in Winston-Salem. Eurydice White performs one of her original poems duringPiedmont Slam White was named the winner of the slam, which earned hera spot in the Piedmont Slam-Off to be held this spring. (Photo by KeithT. Barber)