Never Sets on
Slam Your Head
by Lea Menser
Laughter and conversation sputter out. The spotlight above the first contestant outlines his body and highlights his face. And as he finishes his poem, audience members scream, hiss, and applaud, holding up scorecards and sipping cappucinos.
Western Carolina University holds a number of poetry slams each year. Not your typical poetry reading, a slam takes its judges from the audience, not the anthologies. If you’re a poet and want to read your work aloud, or if you don’t know anything about poetry, or if you just like a great time, try a slam.
English Professors Terry Nienhuis and Newton Smith, who emcee the slams, say they enjoy the change in pace. “I like to ham it up,” Smith laughs demonically. Nienhuis, a working actor and popular instructor, is a natural as game-show host
If you’re feeling brave, sign up (you can always chicken out). A student panel, chosen at random, judges the poems on a one-to-ten scale, and high-scoring poets win fabulous prizes. “I’d like to thank the academy,” began last year’s winner, clutching her prize, a brand-new papier mache alien. “I feel like a real author!”
She bowed and smiled as clouds of popcorn rained around her.