Bellingham poet Dee Dee Chapman (left) will host the April 24 Write Riot Poetry Slam with featured poet Taylor Xavier (right) presented by Village Books and Colophon Cafe
We had so much fun hosting the Write Riot Poetry Slam during National Poetry Month 2018, that we’re doing it again! This year, we’re teaming up with our friends at the Colophon Café and poet Dee Dee Chapman to host the second annual slam, Wednesday, April 24. Poets who would like to read their work can sign up for available spots beginning at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at 7 p.m. The popular event will fill up; arrive early to grab a good seat at the Colophon, which will offer literary themed drink and food specials. While the event is free, please support the venue by purchasing from the menu.
The slam is open to all ages. Parents, be aware there may be adult language and themes. In addition to local talent, Taylor Xavier, a fiber and spoken word artist from Everett, Wash., will be the featured poet. We asked Dee Dee Chapman for her thoughts on the Poetry Slam and the local poetry scene. Here’s our conversation.
Village Books (VB): Imagine someone is reading this article and has never been to a poetry slam: describe what they should expect and why they should come.
Dee Dee Chapman (DDC): A poetry slam is essentially, competitive poetry. Let that contradiction sink in: Competitive. Poetry. Ridiculous! All art is subjective. A slam just brings a more interactive and communal appreciation to poetry. In rounds, our poets will share their work with the audience and judges made up from volunteers in the crowd. The judges, who will NOT be swayed by the audience's opinion of the poem, will score each poem on a scale of 1-10. The audience, who MUST sway the judges, will cheer/boo the correct/incorrect scoring of that poem. After three rounds, we'll crown a winner!
VB: When and where did you first read your work at a slam? Why did you decide to read? Do you remember how you felt and why you wanted to do it again?
DDC: I first read at Poetry Night (when it was hosted out of the Anker Cafe, RIP) in 2010. I'd become immersed in poetry while at Whatcom Community College and had been editing a few pieces for quite a while. I was absolutely terrified. My knees actually knocked against each other, I was shaking so bad. But I did it, and I never looked back. I've been addicted to poetry events ever since.
VB: What would you say to a poet who's scared to read at the event?
DDC: That's OK! I came in dead last at the first slam I read in, but the audience was welcoming, and the other poets were inspiring. Keep in mind that no two people, let alone an entire audience will have the same opinion of any one poem. It's fun to compete, but the idea of "losing" isn't really what a slam is about. I got to share something I cared deeply about with more humans and got to listen to others' voices. It has done nothing but make me a better writer.
VB: Why did you choose Taylor Xavier as the featured poet?
DDC: Because Taylor Xavier is a voice we need and is a delight to be heard. She is a moving, charming poet, owns her own business (check out Whiskey Knits on Instagram), is an incredible human being, and makes AMAZING vegan snacks. I'm honored to have her come to Bellingham, so if you know what's good for you, you'll show up. ;)
VB: If someone doesn't regularly read – or never reads – poetry, why does poetry matter? Why should they give it a go during Poetry Month?
DDC: Poetry allows one to pause and look more closely at everything, by getting us to look closely at language. It's meditative, like walking down the path at Whatcom Falls and noticing individual leaves. It's pleasurable to play with words, to see them juxtaposed in unexpected and exciting ways. It changes as our own languages evolve. If you're looking for a new way to find joy in the world, I suggest poetry.
VB: Describe the local poetry scene. Is it strong? How has it changed? Beyond Write Riot, how can poets get involved?
DDC: A lot of the Bellingham poetry scene currently happens in smaller "house-show" settings. Taking the reins at local reading series Poetry Night is Danny Canham, and I'm so excited for his involvement. They meet at the Bellingham Public Library. For more info, check out Poetry Night's website! I'm so grateful to Village Books and Colophon Cafe for hosting Write Riot once again. It's going to be an inspiring night, full of laughter and probably some big feelings. Get ready!
The return of The Write Riot Slam on April 24 at the Colophon Café is a special one-night only event. Contact the bookstore for details or check Village Book's website or the Facebook event listing. The Write Riot Slam was originally hosted from 2014 to 2016 in downtown Bellingham by local poet Jessica Lohafer. Village Books and the Colophon Cafe were honored to work with Lohafer in 2018 to revive the celebration of local poets and poetry. Lohafer hand-picked poet Dee Dee Chapman as this year’s host.