BNV 2019 Day 4

Final showdown of 4 teams! This year is much more creative than the last, and I’ve noticed a trend happening…


So St. Louis won as you may have guessed from the cover photo. I say whoever made it to finals automatically wins because there’s 50 teams and scoring is too luck-based. Seattle,┬áNewark, Chicago, St. Louis. Congrulations.

A highlight of finals was a poem by Chicago about casual male catcalling that made one of the best topic flips I’ve ever seen. Three female poets started out kind of fun, waiting at the bus stop, ignoring that bunch of boys at the corner, annoyed commentary. Metaphored catcalling to bullets; I didn’t realize the implication, didn’t catch the setup of what I thought to be a bland metaphor. Then out of the three poets onstage the middle pantomimed being shot in the stomach. She staggered to the other two, begging for help, as the two yelled–not screamed–about not making it onto the bus, becoming a victim, never coming home. The wounded girl laid on the edge of the stage, impeccable timing, with an outstretched arm towards the judges’ table. “Men love things to death.”

Please let that be captured on video. Powerful blend of spoken word and theater. Not too dramatic but everyone knew what the metaphorical bullet was, understood the shock of the victim, the shock of the action. No words needed.

After the finals there was a party held in the Student Union center with pizza and arcade games. The Best of BNV show took place on a carpet, no mic, but no mic needed. Baltimore, which won last year’s slam, got extremely unlucky and didn’t make semis, but they did make the Best of BNV. Here’s a hydra!

The hydra poem: four poets squish together in a square and start hissing, moving their upper bodies snakelike. The hydra was never Greek to begin with, the many-headed snake was also African mythology and breathed fire. Cut off a head and it’ll grow two more, like the Black Lives Matter movement. Like all resistance.

The concept was well thought out. The choreography made it spectacular. Poets were saying whole sentences at the beginning, but started to split sentences between two people, then four, then everyone said one word but it still sounded like a complete sentence. The facial expressions of these “hydra heads” was always an angry stare, and for three minutes, I felt like more depth can be added: what happens if one head has a different idea than the rest? What if one head that grew back after a tragedy in the community wants to burn the world but the other wants to talk?

I’ve noticed something.

While last year a sacrificial poem at finals was anti-slam in that it described the problematic side of trauma poems, this year in first round an anti-slam came from one of the competing teams. Saw one at semis too.

There are enough anti-slam poems to be considered a genre.

Love poems, queer poems, a letter to parent/family/grandparent poem, those are genres and share similarities. Now add in anti-slam. Usually directed directly at audience, using the word ‘you’ in the poem. Usually contains some sort of grievance, complaint. Of course it can be crossed with any other genre, and satire/irony about that genre. Either very funny about the absurdity of slam, or very angry at the content of slam, or both.

This may be just BNV, but think what you will of what’s changing as coaches switch and teams get refreshed.

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St. Louis in white for a W.

BNV 2019 Day 1

BNV 2019 Day 2

BNV 2019 Day 3

BNV 2019 Day 4

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