From Wednesday, June 5, to Saturday, June 8, New Orleans will play host to hundreds of spoken word poets from across the country at the 21st Annual Southern Fried Poetry Slam, the second largest poetry competition in the nation. The four-day festival will include 32 teams of five poets each, as well as 16 individual poets, with some coming from as far away as Honolulu and Brooklyn, NY.
Daily preliminary bouts will take place at various venues around town, including Café Istanbul and the Cathedral Creative Studio on Julia Street. In addition to the commemorative Moon Pies and RC Colas of Southern Fried tradition, this year’s champions will receive more than $7,000 in cash and prizes.
Organizing the festival has taken up almost two years of Kataalyst Alcindor’s time. This 26-year-old Marrerro-born poet, whose birth name is Ehren Alcindor, is one of a number of young, local poets who consider their involvement in slam poetry to be essential to their lives. It’s a community where they find friends with common interests, an outlet to articulate their most profound thoughts about life in the turmoil of today’s world.
Katalaalyst, whose name is his version of the word catalyst, a word he discovered in a school-detention punishment chore of writing out the dictionary, says it reflected his life at the time, “so I took it and made it hip,” he says.
“It was around 2007 that I heard about poetry from a friend who took me to a poetry reading,” Kataalyst recalls. “It kind of opened up something inside me. I really felt like was a calling for me. I wanted to do something with a slam.”
So in 2008, he went to the Annual Southern Fried Poetry Slam held in Tallahassee, FL.
“It was so amazing to me,” he says. “It blew my mind. People came from all over because they had decided they wanted to express themselves through poetry. Ever since then I have been thinking I want to host them in New Orleans, because it is literally 10 years since the last time it was in New Orleans.”
As a precursor to the annual event, the local organizers are hosting a competitive slam on Monday June 3, at 7 p.m. the Shadowbox Theater, 2400 St. Claude Ave., and an open mic spoken word evening on Tuesday, June 4, at 10 p.m. at Sweet Lorraine’s, 1931 St. Claude Avenue.
For more information about the these events, the Southern Fried Poetry Slam and the Southern Fried Poetry Festival, go to southernfried2013.tumblr.com/ .
On Your Hands, by Kataalyst Alcindor:
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.