On Saturday, May 28, the best poets in Arizona will compete in the 2016 Sedona Poetry Grand Slam, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre, 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite A-3. The event is the biggest poetry slam of the year because the winners will go on to the national competition. Poets competed at six slams over the last eight months, earning points through wins just to be able to compete on the Grand Slam stage.
The slam is the climax the 2016 season, when the audience will select the foursome and alternate to officially represent Sedona and the Verde Valley at the National Poetry Slam in Decatur, Ga., in August. Poets in the slam come from as far away as Phoenix and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona, college poets from Northern Arizona University, and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School's Young Voices Be Heard slam group.
Sedona sent its first team to the 2012 National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., its second to the 2013 NPS in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., and its third and fourth to Oakland last two years.
Some of the 12 top poets who will compete on June 6 include:
Josh Wiss is a 25-year-old poet who is bound to a lifestyle constant creativity. He attended his first poetry slam in fall 2010 and has been addicted to the art form ever since. A self-proclaimed “feeler,” Wiss lives life riding the oscillating waves of a water sign. He has dedicated his life to embracing the purity of existence and trying to transcribe experiences through a variety of expressive mediums. Whether he is plucking ukulele strings, painting vibrant panels or pouring poetry onto pages, Wiss attempts to completely envelop himself in each of his works.
His poetry is raw and often reflects an optimistic side of his personality. Obsessed with bold colors and blowing bubbles, a childlike energy inhabits his performances. Wiss has been to the National Poetry Slam on both the Sedona and Flagstaff teams in previous years.
Evan Dissinger is 25 years old and currently living in West Sedona. He has been involved with slam poetry since 2008 and has been on three national teams; 2008 with FlagSlam and again in 2012 and 2015 as a member of team Sedona.
Dissinger lives with one cat and is often found hunched over a canvas or cruising on a skateboard when not at his restaurant day job.
Dissinger is an inquisitive Aquarius with a unique interpretation of the world around him. Dissinger caries a timid boldness that can be found reflected in his art.
Phoenix-area crackpot Jerome du Bois once said of The Klute: "You have one of the blackest hearts I've ever had the misfortune to glimpse," so in 2007, The Klute received an upgrade.
With the implantation of a freestyle bioprosthesis, The Klute now has "superior flow characteristics." His heart remains blacker than ever.
The Klute, part man, part machine, all of him sarcastic, is a fixture of the Arizona poetry scene, having been on five National Slam Poetry Teams from Mesa (2002-2003, 2005-2006, and 2010) and five from Phoenix (2008-2009, 2012-2014), and is the winningest slam poet in the state.
He has been published in anthologies by Write Bloody and Sergeant Press. He's a one-man psy-ops campaign bringing the system down from inside. He buys low and sells high. He keeps the Grim Reaper on speed dial and his absinthe on ice.
Roanna "Rowie" Shebala, a Native American spoken word artist, of the Diné – Navajo – Tribe was born and raised on the Navajo Nation.
"Yá’át’ééh shik’éí dóó shidine’é
Shí éí Roanna Shebala yinishyé
Tsé Ńjíkiní nishłį́
Shí éí Roanna Shebala yinishyé
Tsé Ńjíkiní nishłį́
Given the gift of storytelling from her father she combines story, poetry, and performance.
Shebala constantly brings the voice of her heritage into her performance, and written work often treading into spaces where hearing native voices is unlikely.
In doing so, she hopes to reframe what it means to be a Native person for the masses, point out the appropriation of her people's culture, and reclaim an identity that has perverted by heavily edited versions of history, the invisibilization of indigenous peoples today, and the use of those people as caricatures for mass amusement. Shebala represented Sedona at the Women of the World Poetry Slam last year and performed as a featured guest poet at New York City's Lincoln Center in August.
Tyler "Valence" Sirvinskas is a performance poet and new media artist based in Arizona.
Spoken word, performance art, electronic music, and visual art are all elements of Valence's artistic vision. In 2011, he began competing in poetry slams, and represented Flagstaff at the 2011 National Poetry Slam. In 2012, he won the Sedona Grand Slam, and in 2013 secured a spot on the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team.
Valence has lived in Arizona for the last decade, but was born in and spent his childhood in Chicago. Part of the last generation to know first-hand what life was like before the internet, Valence is grateful for anything that makes people silence their smartphones.
In the future, Valence has plans for touring, various projects, and a new style of performance art that combines spoken word with live video and music. At only 24 years of age, he's still somewhat green but definitely done screwing around.
A recent graduate of Sedona Red Rock High School, Kaycee Pearson is the younger sister of Claire Pearson, who has been on three Flagstaff National Poetry Slam teams, in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and represented Flagstaff at the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Kaycee Pearson is equally talented and recently had her poetry published in "Petrogyphs: Lucid Dreams," the annual SRRHS literary book. "It wouldn't be a Sedona Poetry Slam without a Pearson at the helm," Graham said.
Other poets may include Gary Every, Jess Ballantyne, Tara Aitken, Robert Chandler Gonzales, Taylor Marie, Kenny Kreslake, Diana Stoneberg and Lauren Perry.
Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. While many people may think of poetry as dull and laborious, a poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays.
All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain their audience with their creativity. The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.
At Nationals, the Sedona National Poetry Slam Team will share the stage with 300 of the top poets in the United States, Canada and Europe. While the highlight of the event in the competition, the week is filled with writing workshops, featured performances, themed readings and a handful of "underground" poetry competitions.