Area poets square off May 2

Irish Rose hosts Northern Illinois Poetry Slam with Cullen Balch

The poetry slam, invented by Marc Smith at The Green Mill in Chicago, is native to Illinois, so it makes sense that our state is host to the best of these events. Rockford is no stranger to slams, and the first Northern Illinois Poetry Slam at the Irish Rose Sunday, May 2, should come as no surprise to the regular saloon-goers.

Hosted by Cullen Balch, a.k.a. The Mutinous Mutt, the slam will be appropriately performed beneath the image of Brendan Behan and other photos of Irish poets and literary figures.

The event features a panel of judges tentatively including RVC speech professor Mark Culhane, independent classic poetry and philosophy student Romiro Martinez, and artist Russ Blahnik, as well as some voluntary random audience members.

The theme of the slam is that of a verbal boxing match, and it should prove to be an entertaining and theatrical event for all participating and in attendance. Very few poetry events in Rockford, other than those at Kryptonite, allow attendees to be in such a comfortable social setting, and by comfortable, it is meant that one can drink.

Three rounds of highly competitive slamming are scheduled. The first will allot each participant three minutes to prove that they should be voted on to round two, which will give them five minutes each to move on to the 10-minute third round. Poets cannot exceed their time limits, but will not be “flunked” if they go under. Judges will make their decisions based on presentation, verbal execution and overall proficiency in word and rhythmic manipulation.

A gong chime will sound at the end of the given time periods, similar to Live at The Apollo and The Gong Show, although the gong only goes off for temporal purposes, and is no indicator of the quality of the performance.

All styles are welcome at the slam, and no topics or words are forbidden. The only taboo is personal attacks on people in the room, and overly cantankerous bile spewing—which has happened before at many of the Rainbowassed Fool Productions. Angry rants, of course, are welcome, but only if they aren’t pugnacious incentives.

Signing up now is a good idea as slots are filling. So far, nine official poets have signed up, and the limit should not exceed 25. Of course, Rainbowassed Fool Productions is lenient, and if the number is exceeded, there will be merely a time cut for the first round. Poets may bring an accompaniment instrument, but nothing that requires intensive hook-up or wires, amplifiers, etc. A PA will be available.

Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners, some of them monetary.

To sign up, call Molly at 815/299-2375 or e-mail The slam runs from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m., and there is a $3 cover. Participating poets get in free.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!