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History of Slam
11 years ago
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History of Slam by USA Today Thursday, 10:11 AM Poetry to the people: I slam, therefore I am By Christina Jeng, USA TODAY Nineteen-year-old Marc Kelly Smith was in love, passionately in love, with Sandy, an English major who liked poetry. So Smith, an aspiring architect, decided he'd give poetry a shot. Ultimately, Smith got the girl and then got divorced, but never lost his love for poetry. He jokingly remarks that the divorce resulted from the lack of love poems dedicated to Sandy. Smith's undying love for poetry gave birth to what is now known as Slam Poetry or spoken word the competitive art of performance poetry of which Smith, 54, is the beloved father and "Slampapi." Smith recalls that he was tired of going to passionless poetry readings controlled by English professors who made it hard for those outside of academia to take part. "It was dumb, it was snobbish, it was dead," Smith says. He wondered: If poetry is a passionate art form, why is it dead? In 1986, he started the Uptown Poetry Slam at the Green Mill, a Chicago jazz club Al Capone once frequented. Poets competed against one another by presenting original pieces complemented by props, costumes or music. Typically, the audience judged the performances with cheers or jeers. Smith says he chose the term "slam" because it bore a positive and negative connotation. Like baseball, you could hit a grand slam and rock the house. Or you could get slammed if you were bad. "There have been people who cried; there have been people who got (angry)," Smith says. Smith's vision has evolved into a renewed interest in poetry and its live performance throughout the nation
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