All City Slam to determine local slam poetry bragging rights

Sam Cook of St. Paul's Soap-boxing team

Sam Cook of St. Paul's Soap-boxing team

"No team has ever won the National Poetry Slam three times in a row," slam master Sam Cook explains about the upcoming challenge for St. Paul's Soap Boxing team. "In fact, there is only one team that can even boast three wins." Soap Boxing has already won two years running, so the competition is heating up as they prepare for this month's nationals in Cambridge, MA.

But first they have to beat the local competition.


In a spirited warm-up match, Kieran's in downtown Minneapolis will host four local teams: three with title ambitions, and one just back from the youth-oriented Brave New Voices. Along with the defending St. Paul champs, the All City Slam will see SlamMN! (Minneapolis), Punch Out Poetry (the only certified women's slam in the world), and Quest for the Voice (youth team) go head-to-head. The All City Slam is in its fifth year, and the gold-painted trophy is currently possessed by Soap Boxing.

While the All City Slam gives ample reason for local wordsmiths to pull a yarn at each other, it also represents teams at their peak as each group is putting the finishing touches on their act. "This is the week before nationals, so all the teams should be at their best," SlamMN!'s Allison Broeren explains. "Of course," she admits, "there is some ego at stake."

Between teams there are student-teacher relationships and even a romantic coupling that is torn by group allegiances. Still, beyond the competitive rivalries, all four teams are kindred spirits. "We spend the whole year competing together, so there is some very Minnesotan rivalry, but any combination of people could have made up the teams, so the friendships, mentoring, and helping doesn't stop when the teams are fixed," says Broeren, whose team made it to the finals at the National Poetry Slam (NPS) last year for a group piece.

With such a strong local scene, attendees will be treated to some of the finest competitive poetry that the country has to offer. "Slam has a large presence all over the world, and the Twin Cities has some of the best," says Broeren.

The competition also serves as a fundraiser to get the winners to the NPS. The NPS is slam's highest-profile event; their website proclaims: "It has become part super bowl, part poetry summer camp, and part traveling exhibition." This year, 76 teams of poets will compete, representing much of the U.S., but also reaching out globally with competitors from Canada and Europe. But before the Soap Boxing team can worry about their national title, they'll have to outperform three very strong teams on their home turf.

Michael Lee of Minneapolis' SlamMN! team

Michael Lee of Minneapolis' SlamMN! team


All City Slam

Tuesday, August 2

Kieran's Irish Pub

601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

$7, 8 p.m.