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6/11/2012 9:03:00 AM
Sedona Poetry Grand Slam coming Saturday
Jackson Morris, a first-time member of the Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team, will open the Sedona Poetry Grand Slam Team at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 16. The top four poets will represent Sedona at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C. Courtesy photo
Jackson Morris, a first-time member of the Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team, will open the Sedona Poetry Grand Slam Team at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 16. The top four poets will represent Sedona at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C. Courtesy photo

The biggest, most energetic poetry event to hit Northern Arizona is coming to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 16: the 2012 Sedona Poetry Grand Slam.

The top 12 slam poets from Sedona, Prescott, Flagstaff, Phoenix and Kingman will compete in three rounds in front five judges randomly selected from the audience who assign numerical value to individual performances.

At the end of the night, the top four poets will represent Sedona at the weeklong National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., in August. There, Sedona's four representatives will compete against more than 350 of the best performance poets from the United States and Canada. At nationals, poets perform both solo and group poems, creating complex, dynamic performances.

For the last sixth months, poets from all over Arizona have been competing in Sedona, earning points for the Sedona Poetry Grand Slam. Only the top 12 of the nearly 50 competitors made the cut for this invitation-only contest.

Poetry slam is unlike any other poetry event you've ever seen. Slam poetry isn't confusing, enigmatic and esoteric like in a college literature class with rhyme and meter, but an energetic blend of spoken word, theater and performance art.

In each three-minute performance of their original work, poets aim to make audiences laugh, cheer, cry or get chills down their spines. The performers are not permitted to use props, costumes or musical accompaniment, relying instead on their own words and inflections.

Poems range from explosively humorous to deeply personal to wryly political, with styles from hip-hop to narrative storytelling. All types of poetry are welcome. Audience reaction is just as important to a high score as the poetry itself, so the crowd is encouraged to not remain silent, but cheer, boo and engage with the poets' on stage.

The Sedona Poetry Grand Slam competitors (in alphabetical order):

• Evan Dissinger is one of the preeminent voices in the Flagstaff poetry scene. A skateboard rat in Flagstaff, Dissinger is one of the most sincere poets in Arizona with a knack for making conventional experiences sublime.

• Author and poet Gary Every's career has followed many diverse paths including geology exploration, carpenter, chef, piano player, punk rocker, dishwasher, photographer, mountain bike instructor, soccer coach, bonfire storyteller and Sedona Writing Salon organizer. Every is one of Sedona's most prolific writers, who has published more than 1,000 poems, short stories and articles in newspapers, journals, anthologies and six of his own books.

• Lauren Hanss is one of the strong female voices in Flagstaff. An early education and creative writing student at NAU, Hanss is respected for her honest, confessional poetry.

• Known for his political savvy and humorous poetry, The Klute performs all over the United States and Canada and featured at the Poetry Slam and the Sedona Public Library. A seasoned veteran, The Klute has been to the National Poetry Slam seven times, for the Mesa Slam Team in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006, and the Phoenix Slam Team in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He also won the grand slams in 2005 and 2010.

• A poet's poet, Frank O'Brien writes with a profound simplicity. O'Brien won the 2008 and 2009 Flagstaff Grand Slams, and competed at three national poetry slams from 2008 to 2010.

• A veteran national competitor, Lauren Perry competed at the National Poetry Slam with the Mesa Poetry Slam Team in 2006, 2009 and 2010. She also proudly represented Sedona at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Denver.

• Kaye Pettit is a powerful female voice on the Flagstaff stage. A psychology major at NAU, she one of the most consistent performers in the scene.

• Austin Reeves is an up-and-coming voice in both Sedona and Flagstaff. A coffee-loving creative writing student at NAU, Reeves has already made an impact, taking second at the last Sedona Poetry Slam in May.

• Tyler Sirvinskas aka Valence, was a member of the 2011 Flagstaff National Poetry Slam team. He is the top-ranked poet competing in the Sedona grand slam.

• A political science student at NAU, Spencer Troth's introspective work brings compassion to his views of current events, such as a poem touching on the double murder outside Sedona in January. Troth will be taking his poetic voice overseas as a political science student in France next year.

• Mikel Weisser is a school teacher from Kingman, an Occupy activist and a 2012 candidate for Arizona's Congressional District 4. In conjunction with his congressional campaign and activist activities, Weisser schedules poetry performances all over the state.

• Joshua Wiss' infectious enthusiasm for life is evident in his energetic performances. A recent graduate of NAU with a degree in creative writing, Wiss performed at every Sedona Poetry Slam this season and is currently ranked No. 2.

The Sedona Poetry Grand Slam will be hosted by Sedona poet and slammaster Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on the Flagstaff team at five National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2010 and recently the 2012 Flagstaff Grand Slam.

The opening calibration poems will be performed by Nodalone aka Shaun Srivastava, a two-time member of the Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team, and Jackson Morris, a first-time member of the Flagstaff National Poetry Slam Team. Both poets competed in Sedona numerous times this season and each won a Sedona Poetry Slam.

For more information about the slam, contact Graham at

Founded in Chicago in 1984 by Marc Smith, a former construction worker, poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

Tickets are $15, available online at Proceeds help fund the team's trip to Charlotte. Additional donations will gladly be accepted.

The 2012 slam season and the grand slam is cosponsored by the Sedona Performing Arts Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The Mary D. Fisher Theatre is located at 2030 W. SR 89A, near Coffee Pot Drive in West Sedona. For more information, call (928) 282-2688. For videos from past slams and updates about the grand slam, visit

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