East Texas Spoken Word Invitational 4/21/18


Though impressed that a poetry event made the front page of a local Texas newspaper, I had no definitive plans to attend it. I had already committed to attending a smaller, more intimate reading hosted by my friend Professor Peter Hoheisel, and figured that two such events on the same day might be pushing it. However, towards the end of the Professor’s reading it was revealed that the host of the larger Invitational, Mr Mike Guinn, was also in attendance. During the aftermath he was kind enough to ask myself and one other attendee there if we would serve as two of the five judges for his Invitational that evening. After mulling it over on the drive home, I called him and accepted.

The event was of the “poetry slam” style. All sixteen contestants were judged on originality, content, and performance, awarded points on a scale of 1 to 10 by each of the judges (a collective 50 being a perfect score), and eliminated through rounds. $500 dollars and three trophies worth of prizes were on the line. I must confess it was the first spoken word competition I had ever attended, much less judged.

It was a roomful of talent, to be sure. Common themes ranged from social media, to child abuse, to racial tension, to following Christ during the decline of Christianity, to women’s (not necessarily “feminist”) issues. My personal favorite performer of the evening was Hobo Dia, a young Christian artist who seems equally at home in poetry, music, and painting. She ultimately won 2nd prize, and was one of only two performers to whom I awarded a perfect 10.

It was also a real pleasure to hear the debut of another local poet, Aaron Dunn, who served as a featured reader for the evening separate from the competition. I’m speed-reading his book I’m Just Saying and am intrigued, to say the least.

So thanks to Mike for organizing this inaugural event, and all of the poets for both their creativity and bravery to share in this format. I hope to attend many more such events in the future, be it simply as an audience member–or perhaps from the stage?

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