The Long Beach Poetry Slam (LBPS), the longest running poetry slam in the City, will, for the fourth year in a row, electrify a Long Beach stage with a passionate battle between top spoken word artists from all over Southern California. This year’s winner-takes-all competition will be hosted by renowned spoken word artist, Mayda Del Valle, from HBO’s Def Poetry, and will land at MADE in Long Beach on Saturday, May 2 from 7:00PM to 10:00PM.
The first LBPS was held at the Bungalow Building on Pine Ave. in association with Cultural Alliance Long Beach (CALBarts), while last year the event was held at the Art Exchange. This year, MADE in Long Beach will host the 2015 competition, where people will have the chance to witness local performance art and then browse an eclectic array of local products afterward.
“MADE is a fantastic space,” said Antonio Appling, founder and creative director of The Definitive Soap Box, “it truly is a forward-thinking vision of local commerce and local business.”
Brought to you by The Definitive Soapbox, known for hosting free open mic nights every last Friday of the month in Long Beach, the #lbps2015 is sure to be a huge event, with the organizers expecting over 300 attendees. Antonio Appling, founder and creative director of The Definitive Soap Box, is hoping the City of Long Beach will adopt LBPS as an officially sanctioned event.
“I dont know if it will happen this year but definitely soon,” he said. “We are in the talks to make it happen. Long Beach is a highly saturated arts epicenter and events such as the Long Beach Poetry Slam highlight that the city believes in its arts community.”
Each entrant must perform a poem not to exceed three minutes and are then judged based on writing quality, overall performance, stage presence and storytelling. Competitors can be disqualified for breaking certain rules, such as going over the time limit, like Brian “Super B” Oliva did in 2013.
Super B from the Inland Empire, who was disqualified for going over time in the 2013 LBPS competition, will be returning this year with hopefully more wisdom for aspiring artists to digest. Charles Snyder quoted his performance in the Post’s 2013 article, saying, “Keep on writing, when somebody tells you that’s not the way to go, tell them to stop giving directions to places they never been.”
Unique to a competitive event, judges are chosen from the audience and cannot have a relationship to any of the poets or officially represent any specific open mics in any capacity. According to Appling, first-time slam attendees are often chosen for the decisive role. The spoken word artist must then find a way to woo each judge and stand out from their opponents.
Past poetry slams have brought out wordsmiths who gave themselves valiantly over to vulnerability and shared, for a few examples, their first coming-out poem, their experience as a bi-racial woman, the importance of art and how it can save your life and finding their truth through the creative process of writing.
Competitors will be coming from Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, the Inland Empire and, of course, Long Beach. Michelle Denise Jackson, one of two competitors from Long Beach who will be entering this year’s competition strongly believes in how The Definitive Soapbox is running and promoting the growth of LBPS.
Jackson said, “I really, truly, unconditionally, wholly love The Definitive Soapbox crew. Antonio, Mark [Maza], Heather [Appling], Michelle [Johnson], and the rest of the TDSB team have done an incredible job not only growing the slam, but also making sure the focus is on community and highlighting local talent.”
She continued, “Most slams or slam venues hold competitions with the focus of putting together a team to send to the National Poetry Slam every year. But since the LBPS is just focused on celebrating local poets and pitting them against each other for friendly competition, bragging rights and money - it's just a different feeling.”
Jackson, who applied to grad school this past fall for MFA screenwriting programs and has been co-writing a web series, said that she realized two years ago that writing and storytelling were the two most important things in her life. She has been writing since high school, but didn’t start writing and actually performing poetry until she started college. Jackson will be coming off a five or so month-long writing hiatus, to speak about, and not always explicitly, her identity “growing up from a Black Girl into a Black Woman.”
“[...]all of my poems come back to that,” she explained, “identity, coming of age, family/origin, love, sexuality, womanhood, etc. I also write about these things within a very specific political/social/cultural context - being a Black Girl/Woman who is also American, middle-class, college educated, etc. at this particular time in history. My poems will focus on the same themes and issues this year.”
Jackson iterated, “Every year, TDSB pulls in phenomenal poets from SoCal to compete. It's a great opportunity for folks to be introduced to how beautiful, deeply moving, and engaging poetry can really be. The LBPS also does a great job at proving the immense amount of literary and performance talent we have in Southern California and the Los Angeles and Long Beach area.”
Nat Iosbaker, also a returning competitor, who grew up in the writing scene in Chicago and traveled to Madison, Wisconsin on a hip-hop theater scholarship called First Wave and is now a painter and a poet in the Long Beach community, will be representing our creative beach side city more than proudly.
He said, “For LBPS this year, I'd like to touch on some stories from living in the city, both mine and of others. I want the city to be present in the slam from the audience to the performers, to the substance of our work. I support local Long Beach artists, hustlers, motivators, and their stories.”
Iosbaker, whose process involves collecting a few lines from here, a few lines from there, has written and performed about houseplants, playing pool, Amelia Earhart, bears, El Pollo Loco, Australia, his community and making out in the hallway in between classes.
“Writing, spoken word, and slam, for me, has been a vital and vibrant community to be a part of. It has connected me with the cities I have lived in,” he iterated. “It has supported my understanding of the personal narratives within.”
“Spoken word is this eclectic bridge from monologue to hip hop verse with some Langston Hughes in between,” said Appling. “Poets are allowed to express their truth in whatever way is relevant to them in that moment. It truly is amazing if you've never seen spoken word (at this level). It will change your life.”
Tickets for LBPS can be purchased ahead of time here. Tickets at the door are $13. All proceeds go toward funding the next LBPS. For the most up-to-date information, check out the Facebook event page here.
MADE in Long Beach is located at 236 Pine Ave.
Photos courtesy of The Definitive Soapbox.