14 poets will challenge Defending Champion Alexandra Stewart at the First Citizens National Poetry Slam Finals on April 30. The announcement, which was made on the First Citizens National Poetry Slam social media on March 28, featured poets ages 16 to 54, and included past winners and several first-time slam entrants.
The poets performed before a full and interactive audience on March 25 and 26 at the Little Carib Theatre. Several pieces explored trending and gripping topics such as migrant discrimination, domestic violence against men, and a recent controversy surrounding a prominent social media influencer.
Theatrics were also on display as the lyricists morphed words into physical expressions, manipulating the mic and at times stooping and falling to the floor to enhance their presentations. The dynamic deliveries sparked banter and loud applause from Slam-lovers.
The Wild Card poets kicked off each show, joining the poetic joust in hopes of successfully winning over the crowd and being voted to qualify as bonafide semifinalists. Alexandria Douglas and Jabari Collins edged out their counterparts Sade Hinkson and Cheyenne Caliste to join the 30 contestants. Adjudicating the semifinal rounds were head judge Elisha Efua Bartels alongside David Roberts, Janique Dennis-Prescott, and Lawrence Arjoon.
Commenting on both rounds of the championship, Bartels said, “It is exciting to hear the interesting topics shared by the poets and to see the incorporation of acting into their performances. The finals will be something to look out for.”
Jean-Claude Cournand, CEO of the Bocas Lit Fest, said, “the energy of a live spoken word show came alive in the Little Carib, which is a new space for the Slam. It is great to have a mix of new and seasoned talents.”
This year, the Grand Slam Finals return to the Central Bank Auditorium after a decade. Cournand commented, “This is a full circle return for one of the key birthpoints of the Slam.” He explained that one of the most significant achievements of the Slam entering its 11th year is that it is “a nationwide product that is now televised and accessible.”
For 2023, the Slam adopted a storytelling slant, which follows the theme “What’s your story?” from this year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest, which is set to take place from 28 to 30 April. The Grand Slam is the signature closing event of the annual literary festival. Competing poets are characterised as master storytellers journeying to the Village Circle — the Slam stage — to meet the Defending Champion, Alexandra Stewart, represented as Brer Anansi.
Tickets cost $200 and are available online at https://www.bocaslitfest.com/poetry-slam/.
For First Citizens National Poetry Slam updates, follow @nationalpoetryslamtt on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or call 367-2289.
Abdul Majeed Abdal Karim
Soleil La Barrie
Defending Champion: Alexandra Stewart
Chaquille Charles, Jabari Collins and Maria Donald