National Poetry Slams Boston

By Phoebe Ryles
Phoebe Ryles
Phoebe Ryles
August 16, 2013 Updated: September 25, 2013

BOSTON—The National Poetry Slam, the nation’s largest competitive slam, is in full swing this week in and around Boston. Teams of poets from all over North America and Europe have converged in Boston to share their stories, histories, life experiences and political viewpoints through the fast paced and powerful medium of slam poetry.

Jaqui Germain drove 1,200 miles with her team of poets from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to join the fun.

Germain’s poetry is deeply personal. She is black, and onstage she unravels the feelings that arise from her relationships with white men, an inner struggle to balance love with a pressing and recent past of oppression.

 Shaking off the nerves after her set, she laughed easily, “They say in slam poetry you meet people backwards,” she said. “You hear all the details of peoples’ lives and when they come off the stage you introduce yourself and say, ‘What’s your name?’”

As the evening rolled on, the poets tackled the problems of the world. Topics ranged from the perilous future of our iPhone obsessed culture to generational alcoholism and family dysfunction.

“Tell me mom, why your tears are the only ocean I will ever see?” asked Neiel Israel, member of the Lizard Lounge slam team from Boston, Mass., in a compelling piece about her tormented relationship with her mother.

A thin white kid in a white T-shirt and unbuttoned flannel told the story of his best friend’s attempted suicide in “Nothing Ever Happens in the Suburbs.”

Halfway through the piece he stopped. Crouched and shaking on the stage, he experienced what may or may not have been an anxiety attack. Sharing in this troubling sight, a soft wave of supportive coos and quiet snapping spread through the audience. A man standing in the back reached for his girlfriend’s hand.

Germain said many poets find support and community in the art even though they are alone on the stage. “When you share an experience that personal and there is encouragement from the crowd … for some it’s a healing process,” she said.

 The National Poetry Slam competition and related events are in Boston from Aug. 12 to Aug. 17. For a complete listing of events please visit


Phoebe Ryles
Phoebe Ryles