Poetry slam

Photo Credit: Vincente Cardenas

Sex, drugs and poetry are just some of the many topics performed at Puro Slam, the weekly poetry spot in Southtown.

Every Tuesday at 10 p.m., the gloves come off and the rules go out the door as some of the rowdiest crowds — and some the best poets in San Antonio — battle it out in this “survival of the fittest” type of poetry competition to become the champion, at least until the following Tuesday.

The poetry slam consists of three rounds. Anybody can sign up if they arrive at 10 p.m. for sign up. Audience members can volunteer to be one of five judges who critique the poems on a score from one to 10, one being the worst poem, and 10 being the best poem.

The top six poets go on to the second round, and the top three authors battle it out in the third round. Each poet reads an original of his or her own with no props, no costumes and no animal acts. Each person on the stage has three minutes to recite a poem; every five seconds after, the lyricist gets deducted points.

Puro Slam, in its seventh venue since 1999, is still not for the faint of heart. What makes Puro Slam unique is that it is one of the few places in Texas that actually encourages heckling.

Heckling is a form of taunting that is (properly) done by yelling obnoxious, funny, encouraging or even offensive things at the poet who is performing. Some think it’s a form of art, while others disagree. With the exception of some new poets, most of the performers see the heckling as adversity to overcome as they rise above the audience and finish their poem.

Anastacio Palomo, one of the premium poets at Puro says, “Some [poets] improve with heckling because they rise to the challenge. Others seem to crumble under the pressure. When done right (listen first, then respond) heckling is quite entertaining.”

One of the signature types of heckling at the venue is the “carwash-clap.” This references is the clap done at the beginning of the 1976 song, “Carwash” by Rose Royce. When the carwash clap is done, it means the audience collectively thought the poem was not good. Typically, more experienced poets — or the ones who just don’t care — power through this powerful statement of noise and finish the poem. However, others get too distracted, fumble their own words and give up and leave the stage. Both acts are seen as powerful statements on what being a poet is all about.

The “Slam Master,” Shaggy, is the host on most nights. Other famous, colorful personalities that grace the stage with their lyrics are known as Anastacio, Rooster, Travis S., Rayner Shyne, Diamond, J. Alejandro, Chris the Haiku Bike Guy and many more. Each writer brings something unique to their poems that everybody loves.

Whether it be Travis’ “Poem about Poetry” or “Whataburger,” J. Alejandro’s “Rebel Poetry,” or Chris’ audience-participated haikus, patrons may never leave Puro Slam feeling disappointed.

Palomo, who has been writing poetry for 27 years, says, “I keep going because it makes me nervous when I get on stage, and I like that feeling. The first time I went to Puro Slam, I saw a poet who, in my opinion, was horrible. He got low scores and it immediately drew me in.”

When asked about his favorite aspect of Puro Slam, he responds, “I love that on any given night anyone could get up there. There is no telling who might read or what they might say. It’s never a given.”

Any aspiring poets should know the dos and don’ts of slam. As recalled by Anastacio, “Read a poem of your own construction with confidence. Remember, you have the microphone and three minutes. Be entertaining. If the subject matter of your piece can’t hold your attention, don’t expect it to hold the audience’s. Do not be boring or too nervous. You should not be showing that. Don’t read into your page, or muffle your words, don’t rush through and skip lines.”

Also, don’t forget to finish the poem, no matter how bad or good it may be. Poets who finish their poem all the way through the heckles notice a level of appreciation among the other poets.

Any aspiring poets who are curious or looking for a place to kick back, want to drink or even want to bring a date can come to Puro Slam. Puro Slam is located in Southtown, 101 Pereida St., 78210. Sign up opens at 10 p.m. and closes at 10:25 p.m.

Other poetry venues are Sun Poets at Barnes and Noble on San Pedro Ave.; Second Verse, every second Friday at Continental Café on I-35 and Rittman (7-9pm).

Jazz poets at Expresso Gallery 529 on San Pedro, Tuesday nights from 7-10 p.m.; Blah Blah Blah Poetry Spot at Deco Pizzeria on Zarzamora and Fredericksburg, every first and third Wednesday; and Poetic Seduction in Converse on FM 78.

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