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Bloomington Poetry Slam offers monthly event at The Bishop

Bloomington Poetry Slam will host a poetry slam and open mic night at 8:30 p.m. Friday in The Bishop. This event is part of “Words! A Bloomington Celebration of Poetry and Spoken Word,” with festivities occurring throughout March. 

Poetry slams are performance poetry competitions that began in Chicago as a way to introduce poetry to people other than poets, said Dan Sullivan, slam master and host of the slam. 

At Friday’s slam, poets will have three minutes to perform their work. Five randomly chosen audience members will judge the poets in two rounds, and the winner gets two tickets to see poet Andrea Gibson on March 6.

Gibson will perform as part of the celebration at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

The type of poetry presented is up to the poets themselves.

“As long as it’s original work, you can bring it to our stage,” Sullivan said. 

The poetry slam takes place every month during the school year and includes both veteran and new poets. The slam begins with an open mic for those who don't want to compete.

This month’s slam includes a performance by poet Adrienne Nadeau. Sullivan said Nadeau is a Chicago poet who performs personal narratives rooted in lyric. 

Sullivan’s co-host, Andrea Sterling, said the slams provide a sense of community for those in attendance. Attendees feel as if they’re all experiencing the same thing together, and as a host, she said that feeling is increased times five.

Being a co-host allows her to see the audience’s reaction to the poets onstage, Sterling said. She gets to see the audience experience the poem with the poet.

“I kind of see it like waves, how it kind of crashes over the audience," she said.

Sterling said the slam's audience participation makes it stand out. The audience cheering during the poem is part of the experience, and doesn’t throw off the audience or the poet on stage. It can be uncomfortable when it’s silent, she said.

The performance aspect of a piece is important to spoken word poetry, Sterling said. 

“Spoken word poems are written in a way where how it’s being spoken is a part of the piece,” she said. 

Sterling said the poetry slam space is meant for the poets to share about their lives, something that doesn't happen in daily life.

The poems don’t have to follow a certain theme to be worthy of being on stage, but they allow poets to access their humanity and display it for everyone else.

Sullivan said something special happens in the poetry slam space, and the experience is fulfilling for everyone involved. 

Poetry slams provide audiences with a window into the poet’s world, Sterling said. 

Sterling said the space allows for deeper connections and community bonds.

Spoken word celebration is happening all month, according to the Writer's Guild at Bloomington website.

Poetry and the spoken word house a rich community in Bloomington, Sullivan said. 

Sterling said not only is Bloomington good for spoken word, but so are changes in the modern day. People are getting more in touch with their own identities, and these types of art forms flourish when people feel strife. 

"If you're feeling silenced, then this is a good way to get your voice heard."  

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