Summer To-Do’s: See an Asheville Poetry Slam

Mariah Parker

I’ve done my share of blabbing about slam poetry in the past, but that was back before I’d ever stepped foot in the Masonic Temple for Poetry Slam Asheville. It had a similar affect on me as the kind described by Jesse Davis, former slam coordinator:

“After the slam you get that post-coital bliss when you all go to Denny’s and get really excited about all the things that went well,” Jesse told me on the phone while on her way to New York City to visit friends. “I personally don’t write much but I’d write the most in the three days after the event… it’s intense but there’s so much joy.”

Poetry Slam Asheville (PSA) started up in 1992 at the Green Door on Carolina Lane, just a few years after the first ever National Poetry Slam. Just two years later, Asheville hosted the national competition and the following year, the Green Door team brought home their very own national title.

In the years since its vigorous takeoff, PSA has gone through many hands and homes, moving from the Dripolator to the Hookah Bar to the Masonic Temple where, a year ago, I first saw slammaster Griffin Payne spring onto stage in his orange-and-red-sequined vest. Now, PSA has found new residence at the Magnetic Field in the River Arts District—and new management, too, as reigning champ Steve Schell and Vanuata Kava Bar owner Andrew Prozik have stepped into Griffin Payne’s rollicking shoes.

I’ve never seen more than five Wilson kids at the monthly Asheville slam. When I see one, my eyes light up like glass Coke bottles: finally! What took you all so long? The relationship between PSA and the Wilson community, to me, seems obvious. A) Wilsonites are expressive. B) Wilsonites are committed to social justice. C) Wilsonites love community. D) PSA is all about that shit.

The slam’s the working man’s poetry,” said Wilson grad Justin Evans, a regular of PSA. “Slam poetry talks about everyday problems—- extreme everyday things, mind you, like rape and poverty and politics.”

He went on to describe a poem of Prozik’s in which Prozik pretends to roll a condom over a nuclear warhead, illustrating how the government is fucking us.

“It’s the kind of audience where they’re gonna cheer for you no matter what,” added Evans. “Nobody’s gonna be pissed you got up there.”

This Tuesday, PSA will return to the Magnetic Field with a special kind of throwdown: the old-school, veteran slammers will clash words with a league of youth poets from the WNC area.

As Davis said, “Come with something to write with. You’ll have a great idea during intermission, get home after three cocktails and forget it.”

Poetry Slam Asheville; The Magnetic Field, 372 Depot St. in the River Arts District; Sign-ups open at 5, Slam starts at 6:15; $5 cover, volunteers free.