It’s poetry season again, as the First Citizen’s National Poetry Slam begins its auditions on for the upcoming event on May 5. This year, there will be five auditions led at venues in Trinidad and Tobago, beginning on January 20.
The Slam closes the week-long Bocas Literary Festival, being held this year from May 1 to 5, and is run by the 2 Cents Movement, who initially began the Slam years ago. 2 Cents Movement Programme Coordinator Kwame Weekes said the audience for the Slam, as well as the number of participating poets, has grown over the years.
He said it is for this reason that the decision was made to have five auditions throughout both islands. “We felt the need to structurally realize the “national” part of the slam by taking spoken word poetry back to their regional homegrounds. Each of the hosts: True Talk, No Lie (TTNL); East Talks; One Mic; and The Next Chapter, have all been training grounds for spoken word poetry in the past. Partnering with them doesn’t just make our auditioning process more efficient and accessible, but it helps to foster community.”
The first audition will take place at TTNL on January 20 at Kaiso Blues Cafe in Port-of-Spain, beginning at 2 pm. Admission is $60. The second audition is at Apex Bar and Grill in Tobago on January 20, beginning at 7 pm, with admission being $40. The third audition is again hosted by TTNL at Kaiso Blues Cafe on January 24, with an admission fee of $60. The fourth audition takes place at East Yard, Arima on January 27, beginning at 5 pm, and the fifth audition takes place on January 31 at Sky View Lounge in San Fernando, beginning at 7:30 pm. Admission for the fourth and fifth audition is $50.
This year, the auditions follow a theme inspired by a popular TV show. Weekes said, “we selected Game of Thrones as our theme again this year to align with the hype surrounding the show’s final season. But this would be the first time we’ve made the theme as immersive as we have. Each of the auditions has been renamed to a battle that sounds like it’s straight out of a Song of Ice and Fire, except the names draw on local folklore, history and geography for their content. The auditions, in order, are called Battle for Tyrico Bay, The Siege of Fort George, Mayhem at the Mangroves, The Storming of Salybia and The Battle for King’s Wharf.”
While spaces for the auditions are filled, with the exception of Tobago, Weekes said the hope is for audiences to come out and support the poets. “We’re looking forward to bigger audiences at the auditions. I think audiences take the auditions stage for granted and wait for the finals of the competition to come out, but because the competition has gotten so stiff over the years, poets bring finals level performances to the auditions just to secure their spots in the semi-finals. The auditions then become a kind of finals in themselves. So we’d really like more people to witness that, while supporting the hosts that have kept the culture alive.”
Weekes said the organisers and performers are looking forward to poets coming forward and sharing. He said poets who haven’t signed up for the auditions are welcome to “show up on the day to add themselves to stand-by lists should registered poets not show up themselves as sometimes happens. We’re not looking forward to any topic or poet in particular. We have created a platform that is each year blessed by the talent of some of the most creative people in the world, we believe. We look forward to them pushing topical boundaries and sparking important conversations.”
For more information, find National Poetry Slam – Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook.