Poetry slams: Why I love First Thursdays

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Performance therapy came to mind as I watched the spectacle of First Thursdays. Poets from the islands and all over got up onstage and bared their souls with poems that were political, satirical, lyrical, but all soulful. The audience was enthusiastic. These were not poems a student reads in a monotone to indifferent classmates. Nor were they ones read silently in a cafe while sipping an espresso. This was spoken word, poetry meant to be read aloud, with feeling, with emotion, with soul.

The First Thursdays poetry slam started 13 years ago in a Chinatown art studio. It’s grown into the largest registered poetry slam in the world, reaching up to 500-plus in attendance. This year it’s found a new home at Crossroads in Hawaiian Brian’s. What’s a poetry slam, you ask? A throwdown where poets compete in verbal combat, reciting original works with energy and intensity. The competition is judged by randomly selected judges from the audience. Anyone can enter; few will win.

I tried my hand, or should I say mouth, at this during First Thursdays’ infancy. Suffice to say, while I may have some meager ability to put my thoughts on paper somewhat coherently, speaking them aloud in a compelling fashion to a judging audience is not my forte. I’ll stick to writing and leave the audible part to the voices in my head.

To get a sense of the caliber of performances, check out videos below. Caution: Some contain mature themes and adult language. Meaning if you’re at work, wear headphones. You’ve been warned.

First Thursdays
Every first Thursday of the month
Hawaiian Brian’s (Crossroads)
Doors open/poet sign-in at 7:3o p.m.
Show starts at 8:30 p.m.
$3 before 8:30, $5 after
387-9664
http://www.hawaiislam.com/