nth, the Bean Cycle in Old Town overflows with people. Some sit on the arms of chairs while others lean against the register, ordering drinks.
Men and women of all ages squeeze onto the surfaces of computer counter tops. Even the stairs of Matter Bookstore, located in the back of the coffee shop, are occupied. A man who goes by the nickname “Booger” approaches the small stage and single microphone in front of the shop. Wearing his signature tie-dyed shirt and shiny metallic silver boots, he greets the crowd at the monthly poetry slam.
“Poetry is words on paper, poetry collects dust on shelves, poetry is passion — this is poetry,” he says.
Poetry slams, or spoken word competitions, are nothing new to Fort Collins. Four years ago, the slams were run by CSU students. When they graduated, “Booger,” aka Larry Holgerson, and three acquaintances, Anthony Kilgore, Eoin Coffey and Jennifer Pacheco decided to take on the slams as organizers and MCs, alternating monthly as slam masters.
The slam consists of three rounds. In the first round, 16 poets perform. Individuals are chosen from the audience to be the judges of the evening, gradually eliminating poets after each round. By the third round, the three poets with the highest scores remain to compete for first place. A jar for donations is passed around during the course of the night, and the money collected is the first place prize. “It’s the one night a month that we can afford to pay a poet,” Holgerson said. When he isn’t acting as the MC of the evening, Kilgore, a nursing student at Front Range Community College, jumps at the chance to perform.
“When you pull off a good performance, you actually get this feeling afterwards, kind of like a runner’s high,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting, pulling off your poem and knowing that it worked.”
Kilgore recalls his first time performing slam poetry at the Mercury Café in Denver as being nerve-wracking and exciting.
“Even now I get the same feeling at first, where my whole body is shaking and it’s hard to speak,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I just had to do it.”
The age range of poets is vast, and poetry topics vary from love, to hip-hop, to journal readings, Holgerson said. “I’ve found that there’s a real sort of edge to work performed by the younger generation,” he said. “We’ve left them a really messed–up world, and they’re really pissed off–and they should be.”
Kelsey Myers, an undeclared sophomore, performed for the first time last Friday.
“It was really exciting to see the genuine reaction of people who’d never heard my poetry before,” she said.
Myers went on to finish second overall, following Rob C., a slam poet from the Denver area. She suggests that those interested in performing write something that they’re passionate about, and disregard the nerves that typically revolve around speaking in front of a larger audience. “Once you’ve decided to pass on second thoughts and all doubts, just go for it,” she said.
The MCs hope to eventually find a larger space to accommodate more people. For right now, bringing the community together and showing off the talent of local poets is the main focus, Holgerson said.
“It’s my belief that poetry is dead and gone, and spoken word is the new dynamic version,” he said.
Staff writer Kate Bennis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.