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A Guide to Getting Involved with Spoken-Word in the Twin Cities

As you may have noticed, things have been slow at MN Mic.  That doesn’t, however, mean that things have been slow in the community– they definitely haven’t been.  There are more spoken-word events happening all the time and it’s beautiful to see.  As we won’t be updating as frequently here, we wanted to share with you a list of ongoing spoken-word events.  It’s not EVERY event, and some events change times/locations, but it’s a great START.  Dive in and get involved!

TWIN CITIES SPOKEN-WORD EVENT FINDER via Guante.Info

There’s also this, a list of general resources and tips for beginning spoken-word artists.

Feel free to share any other tips or resources in the comments, and spread the word!

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Passing the Torch

Hi folks, one last tiny wave from MN Mic founder Cole Sarar. I’ve handed off ownership of Minnesota Microphone to the very capable hands of Kyle “Guante” Myhre and anyone he entrusts with keeping this going. It’s been a blast, and I’m happy to see MN Mic go with such talented folks.
-cole

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Where is MN Mic these days?

Hi folks, this is your editor, Cole.

The last year, posts on MN Mic have been few and far between, and for that I apologize, but I found that MN Mic was serving individual performers more than it was serving the larger community, that service and the hours of work and personal money were taken for granted, and wasn’t doing a whole lot for the community at large. It has never been easy to find guest bloggers and photographers, and you as readers don’t see this, but I’ve had more folks “forget” or bow out of articles they’ve agreed to, than folks who’ve come through with quality work. Between the thankless free work, the new personal projects, and the fact that I got a new job, MN Mic has kind of taken a back burner. The local calendar (also to be found in the links on the right side of the page) is still being updated very regularly (though, I frequently roll my eyes at people who are upset when I don’t get something up in time when they send me information a week or less before their event).

As I’ve been in the spoken word community longer, I’ve found a new way of contributing to the slam scene at large by starting an all women’s poetry slam. It’s a good scene, there are a lot of really great new voices, and I’m a benevolent dictator (and a pretty great host, if I may say so). There are a lot of really interesting projects going on locally in spoken word, now, and as I continue to get invites to their events, I’ll continue to post them on the calendar. Get involved, and shoot me a message if you feel like writing about a local spoken word event and want it up on MN Mic. Should I be seized with the impulse, I’ll get a new blog up here.

You’re all rockstars, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Cole

From Kyle Myhre: Ongoing events-
TC spoken-word overview

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Teen Opportunities (Canvas and MNSWA)

A Canvas update:

This is Kyle/Guante. I’ve been working as the arts coordinator of The Canvas, a teen arts center in St. Paul, for a year now, and wanted to spread the word about some of our spoken-word-related programs. Even though our mission is to serve teens, it’s definitely okay for some college students and older folks to swing by and check this stuff out. Multi-generational learning spaces are the best.

Canvas Writing Circle: every Wednesday, from 4:30-6pm, I facilitate a writing circle for poets, rappers, songwriters and writers of all kinds. Bring a piece, share it and get some feedback from your peers. It’s very informal and fun. You can also learn a lot about your own art by critiquing others. This is a great opportunity to both get better as a writer and to build community.

“Speak On It” Teen Open Mic: our open mic is every last Thursday of the month, from 6-8:30pm. We get teens from all over St. Paul and beyond, and the work shared is incredibly diverse and sometimes kind of crazy. There’s not really anything else like it going on.

So if you are a teen, work with teens, or can pass for a teen (haha), check this stuff out. We’re also going to be having a poetry slam or two over the next few months. We just finished a four-day intensive spoken-word workshop and will probably do that again at some point in the future. We also just hosted the “Asian Amazicans” spoken-word open mic, as well as a couple of spoken-word-oriented senior projects from local high schoolers. Lots of fun things happening. The Canvas is located at 1610 Hubbard Ave. W., just across Snelling from Hamline University. Get more information at www.canvas651.com.

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SAY WORD! Youth Slam League
MN’s State-wide Youth Poetry competitions aimed at inspiring Literacy, Leadership & Connection across Communities!
‘Putting MN Youth on the Map’

Inviting all Poet leaders, parents, teachers, community center counselors etc to pull together – or build a team and join us at the Say Word! Youth Slam League relaunch in April in celebration of National Poetry Month!

For Who:
Youth 13-18. It could be a group you are either already working with or would like to work with and can pull together. Could be an after-school group, in school class, poetry club, literary group or circle, teen center, or just interested youth in writing a few poems in preparation for the big event.

Why: Say Word puts MN Youth on the Map! Developed over 6 years ago it ran for a couple years in schools-now we are relaunching a simplified & community based concept that encourages different communities of youth, poet leaders, and organizers to come together and build while inspiring good writing and performance. It also allows many youth to participate, get involved, and build skills while becoming more connected with the larger community.

Time to prepare:
There’s no big stress. There are no preliminary bouts or competitions …rather 2 months for your group to pull together 3-4 dynamic (2-3 minute poems of your choosing) We realize most groups already have this /but the time can be used to refine pieces and work on performance quality. Remember this is not just for poetry groups.

Judging:
Judging generally will be on originality, substance (what is the poem saying and does it have weight), dynamic (performance, poise, level of practice and refinement). Depending on how many groups/teams sign up we will determine the number of rounds that teams will compete in. Generally speaking….all should prepare for 3 rounds (so 3 poems)- selections can be solo poems or group poems.

Can’t find a group?
If you are a youth that is interested but can’t find others in your area to formulate a group with ….or an adult interested in coaching a group but isn’t already working with one….email us and we can try connecting those of you in search of becoming a team. Particularly in areas where your youth-poetry community is newly forming.

Size:
We are hoping for 8-10 teams this year and would like to double that for next year. Teams should be
around 4-8 youth but can have larger numbers – keeping in mind that there will be 3-4 rounds (each team picks one poem to present per round).

What to Expect
Expect 1-2 days packed with exciting poetry & healthy competition…+ some spotlight workshops open to the public. One team will walk away the crowned 2011 champ!) Prizes and Recognition will be awarded!

Themes:
Groups are open to present poems on any subject matter and youth are highly encouraged to
write and present pieces that represent them and their communities. This year’s theme is ‘The Road Less traveled’ and can be interpreted in any way. It is not a prerequisite to write to this but those interested -can. MNSWA’s Youth Amplified poets will open the event with a piece prepared to this theme.

Time/Venue/Date/Cost:
We are confirming a location now and will post soon-we are hoping for Sat. April 1. There are no cost to teams…however those traveling from outside the Twin Cities will need to arrange your own transportation.

Register:
Just email sha.mnswa@gmail the following by Feb 15, 2011:
City, Group name, Group coaches names, Contact information, Number of youth.

More info:
Full Rules will be posted the first week of February at www.mnspokenword.wordpress.com
Sha Cage can answer other more direct questions and help groups solidify. sha.mnswa@gmail.com

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Post Tour Ruminations

by Cole Sarar, photography by Cole Sarar

When a performing artist goes on tour, generally the goal is to reach more audiences, to acquaint more people with one’s style, name, and artwork. My unanticipated success came not so much in books sold or fans accumulated, but in my own education, and hopefully the ability to bring that new knowledge to better understand my city’s spoken word scene.

The first thing I want to impart is that we have an incredibly great scene here in the twin cities- we are the perfect storm of talents, and need only to take those next steps.

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One of the things that struck me at the Talk Story Spoken Word Sampler is the friendliness between everyone, but the huge rift in philosophy between most of the slam poets and most of the activist poets. It’s the sort of thing that has existed for as long as art and wealth, but I think it bears paying attention to. Many slam poets believe in art for art’s sake. They are so collaborative and competitive, in preparation for the next slam, the next national slam, a book, a show, whatever it is- it drives them to create art that sucks the audience in and gets them on board. The audience’s attention and the respect of their peers are the ways slam poets measure their own successes. Oftentimes this yields really amazing, strong writing, polished, theatrical performances, and poetry that asks questions of the audience, but offers no answers- dramatic poems are hefty stories in lush detail and surprising metaphor. It gives the audience a lot to think about, but the feeling that nothing will ever be done about these struggles and injustices, that perhaps, there is nothing to be done.

On the other hand, the folks that I would qualify as activist poets see spoken word as a tool towards a greater end, that is- the legislation they want to see through, the community they want to serve or inspire to action, the change they want to inspire in philosophy or social structure- poetry is only one step in getting things done. Art has been a tool of the oppressed and poor for a long time now- a way to explore and expose questions “the man” would rather not think about, and in the case of these activist poets, to offer answers and inspire action. Most of the activist poets I saw perform at Talk Story work for non-profits, or head up other sorts of organizations that do real-world work on the issues they bring to light. But where some slam poets lack actual engagement with the community, some activist poets lack the knowledge of poetry as an artform to write the strongest material they are able.

Now, while it sounds that I’m being a negative person here, and critiquing EVERYONE for not being EVERYTHING, let it be known that I am one of Minnesota spoken word’s biggest supporters, and one of the people who believes the most in it. It is easy for me to see what needs to be done, because so much has been done so far.

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Jake Virden’s poem on Wednesday might be the perfect example of the best of both worlds- his piece was a beautiful, personal account of the recent history of Northeast Minneapolis- the gentrification and the way the arts scene remains ignorant and dismissive of blue collar workers. The writing of the piece was incredibly strong, and I was reminded of how so many of us are living in city communities that are less and less community and more history amnesiacs.

There is, of course a continuum:
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Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria’s “Hands” piece is better performed than it was when I saw it over a year ago, and reminded me why I believe in Rodrigo so strongly- a simple piece that translates between many cultures and offers answers for the problem he illuminates, and serves as an unapologetic anthem.
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Poetic Assassins are writing much more specific work asking more specific questions, offering real options- I’m really excited to see where they go in the next few years with their writing.

The night was, all in all, a really strong collection of performers from many different traditions of performance, with many different sorts of goals in mind. The one thing I heard tons of were anthems for Minneapolis- and rather than being rote or repetitive, it was a strong theme for the evening- we’re all working on this same place. I want us to learn from each other and become stronger writers and performers, and more aware and involved leaders. Scroll down for some more pictures from the night. There are also more photos at Flickr.

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MN Mic Sponsors Spoken Word

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Talk Story Twin Cities Spoken-Word Sampler
Wednesday, November 10 at Honey in NE MPLS
205 East Hennepin Ave.,
8pm Open Mic; 9pm show
$3
18+

Featuring Tish Jones, IBe, Tou Saiko Lee, Miles Walser, Poetic Assassins, Jake Virden, Hieu Nguyen, Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria, Inky, Dylan Garity, Neil Hilborn, Homeless Ryan K., Linda Hawj, Cynthia French, Syd Malicious, Fres Thao, Lewis Mundt, Jenn Parks and more TBA. Hosted by Guante. Plus music by Strange Perspective!

On Wednesday, November 10, Northeast Minneapolis’ Honey nightclub will host the TALK STORY Twin Cities Spoken-Word Sampler. A perfect introduction to spoken-word and slam poetry for those who might not be familiar with the form, the show will feature members of the two-time National Poetry Slam champion Saint Paul team, members of the nationally-ranked University of Minnesota and Macalester college slam teams, members of the first-ever all-women’s slam team (Punch Out Poetry) as well as a wide variety of Twin Cities spoken-word artists who don’t regularly compete in slams, including Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria from Palabristas, Fres Thao, and many more.

Sponsored by local spoken-word online hub MinnesotaMicrophone.com, the event will also include a poetry open mic that anyone can sign up for.

“The idea is that this show can bring together a wide variety of styles and approaches,” says organizer and host Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre. “We’d really like to reach out to new audiences and prove that this is one of the most dynamic, exciting, entertaining art forms around. The National Poetry Slam in St. Paul this past summer was just a taste of what we, as a community, can do.”

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New Look for MN Mic

Hey folks- I did a quick redesign of the website, so that the articles exist in a drop down menu, the full illustration I made (almost two years ago) is visible, the links “pop” just a little more, and it is generally “nicer”. I’m just back from a quick spoken word tour of the upper midwest with Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, which has reinvigorated some of my feelings about spoken word.

We hit Milwaukee
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Madison
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Chicago (a couple of times)
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and La Crosse
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A good short premiere tour for me, with 7 shows and 7 classroom visits. Stay tuned for all sorts of neat projects that are coming up this winter.
-Cole “Inky” Sarar

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