Poetry Slams Into Old Town

Mar 192012
Authors: Allison LeCain

As she stands in the small corner which serves as the slam poetry stage at The Bean Cycle, she raises her arms in the air. She scans the room, making eye contact with each audience member, as she asks them to scream with her on the count of three. She gets to three, and the room fills with noise as everyone lets their troubles out into the air.

While this technique is unique, Lacey Freeman, 22, asks the audience to scream with her before she reads a poem with the purpose of creating a connection with everyone in the room.

“A lot of it is about release – letting go,” Freeman said. “I believe a lot of people come to poetry because they want to let go themselves – have some sort of emotion and feel something, so I want to force everyone to at least feel something for the first few seconds before I start a poem because I don’t want anyone in the room to be numb.”

The Bean Cycle is a coffee shop located on College Avenue in Old Town Fort Collins. For some it’s simply a place to relax, grab a book and a coffee. For others it’s a place of passion and performance.

The shop hosts a slam poetry night on the first Friday of every month. The room is always packed with eager listeners as performers take their turn stepping up to the microphone.

Freeman is one of many regulars at the poetry slam events. While she has been participating for a year and performs at many other venues in Denver and Boulder, she has never won the competition at The Bean Cycle. She consistently gets second place.

The poetry night starts off with twelve performers for the first round. To participate they need to sign up at 7:30 p.m. and the event starts at 8 p.m. There are judges that will score each poet and the six poets with the highest scores move on to the second round. The third round consists of the top three poets and the winner goes home with the tip jar being passed around.

While Freeman has never won first prize, it’s not so much about getting the win. It’s about sharing her feelings in the form of art and making the audience feel with her.

Poetry is not only spoken art, but a lifestyle for Freeman. Removed from her home at age 13 due to an abusive, drug addicted mother, Freeman uses poetry to speak out about domestic violence and women’s issues. It’s what keeps her sane as she deals with her personal challenges.

“Poetry is my oxygen – it’s how I function,” Freeman said. “I always say that writing is my alternative to drugs because it keeps me safe.”

Freeman discovered poetry to be an escape for her when she was eleven and struggling with her home life. At this age, she would sometimes run away from home with her boyfriend. She said without him she felt lonely, and she would express this in her poetry.

In the fifth grade Freeman performed one of her poems in front of the whole school. After feeling the energy of being on stage, she was hooked. She feels that same energy when performing slam poetry.

“I love slam poetry because I embody theater and drama,” Freeman said. “It’s my way of screaming to the world about how crazy I am and crazy experiences I have. It brings sanity to it all.”

Many of Freeman’s poems discuss domestic violence and women’s issues that have really affected her life. While performing, she feeds off the energy of the audience in hopes that she is connecting with them on some level.

Larry Holgerson, who has been emcee of these poetry slams for five years, said that there are very few places that people can go to see people reacting to social context and the poetry slams are a great way to connect with people and share issues with the world.

“I lot of people that seem like they are strong and powerful are hiding behind that powerful face,” Holgerson said. “They just need to be heard.”

Holgerson said that a performance score should be based 50 percent on the poetry and 50 percent on the presentation, both which he said Freeman is always outstanding with.

“Lacey is a live one – she always brings something to it,” Holgerson said. “She has so much presence and passion and stage persona. I don’t know why she hasn’t won yet.”

Holgerson said that one of the reasons Freeman’s poetry is so powerful is because she writes about her abusive past. At age 13, she and her brother were removed from their home since her mother was addicted to drugs and physically violent towards them. They moved in with Freeman’s grandparents, which she said was a better situation, but still not ideal growing up.

Her past and current experiences with her relationships and love are what inspire her poems. Many people are shocked to hear what she’s been through as her poetry often evokes a strong reaction with some audience members, especially when she visited Alaska a few months ago.

When Freeman was in Alaska, she found a pizza shop that had open mic night.

“No one had ever heard of slam poetry or spoken word,” Freeman said. “I was terrified because it was kind of back woods and very conservative.”

She mustered up the courage to read one of her poems. When she finished, women around the room were crying. She said that is something she will never forget.

It is people like Freeman that inspire Holgerson to keep running the poetry slam at The Bean Cycle. She has so much to give to the audience.

“She takes all that and it empowers her to speak her truth, and that’s what this is all about,” Holgerson said.

Each time Freeman stands in front of the microphone at The Bean Cycle, there is an energy that fills the air. It’s her energy – she lets it out through spoken art so that everyone in the room can feel the heat. Adrenaline rushes through the room as her voice elevates and her fist is thrust into the air.

“I’m just really excited,” Freeman said. “I’m really excited about life and the fact that I grew up in something awful, but I have the power to change that.”

Old Town FoCo has so much to offer, especially in the square. While the fabulous fountain that stands in the middle of the square is currently frozen, I’m going to take you back to last spring – prom dress season.

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