Wyoming Arts Council

Slammin’ on a Saturday night in Cheyenne

Over at the Laramie County Public Library on Saturday, June 14, our own Mike Shay was slammin’. Poetry slammin’ that is. The following information (reworked some) comes from his blog.

Two performance poets from Denver’s 2006 national champion Poetry Slam team – Ken Arkind and Panama Soweto – took turns on stage with two of Laramie’s finest – Craig Arnold, a poetry professor at the University of Wyoming and winner of the Rome Prize Fellowship in literature, and Luke Stricker, a recent graduate of the UW MFA program and organizer of poetry slams in Laramie. Saturday’s event was part of the Wyoming Humanities Council’s summer program paying tribute to the beatniks. Cheyenne was the final stop on a Wyoming mini-tour for the Arkind/Soweto team that also included Casper and Lusk. Arkind and Soweto have been performing together for several years. The two perform as a duo (they have a CD, “The Dynamic Duo”) and separately. The evening really caught fire when they launched into their performance piece “Uhuru,” which they’ve performed at Red Rocks and on Denver radio. It was a call and response, with “Stand up” as the refrain. By the end of the piece, “they had us all standing up,” Mike said. Arkind and Soweto describe themselves as nerds, guys who spent their youth not getting dates and playing video games. Arkind had a poem, “Life is Like Mario Brothers,” which received big cheers from the teens and twenty-somethings. The duo performed together on another gamer piece.

The haiku slam was next. Participants were asked to write haiku based on a random ideas shouted from the audience, remisicent of “Whose Line is It, Anyway?” The five competitors had five minutes to write a poem. Scoring came from the five judges. Round 1’s theme was “Wood.” Second was “Circus.” Third was “Arnold Schwarzenegger.” At the end of the second round, Mike held the lead through the second and third round, winning first prize — a plastic horse with a Farah Fawcett mane (traded to Amanda for the 1970s manual on sandal making) and a collection of work by the Nuyorican Poets Café. Mike comments, “It was a strange sort of slam, more improv than the standard variety of writing and memorizing and performing your own poems. That said, I shall treasure my prizes.”

To view a performance by Ken Arkind, go to http://www.podslam.org/.

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