Cantab Recap for Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It was a heady night at the Cantab last night, folks, as Star Trek and Star Wars fans waged a war to be remembered for all eternity… Or at least until the galactically strong drinks wear off. Producer and idea-man Nathan Comstock tempted sixteen poets down the stairs into our wretched hive of booze and poetry, where each hoped that perhaps tonight would be a good night to slam. Slam co-host Adam Stone had produced two outrageously deadly drinks– the untenable Death Star and the similarly unfinishable Kobayashi Maru, both terrible yet popular ideas that decidedly reveal more about their creator than about those willing to engage– and a highly focused bar crowd settled in to lend their forebodingly un-pointy ears to the competitors.

Highlights of the night included Sean Patrick Mulroy’s “(It’s a) Traptych;” Sue Savoy’s local trouble with tribbles; Jade Sylvan’s on-board Enterprise slash fiction; and Kieran Collier’s desperate plea for legitimacy for The Phantom Menace– which was subsequently dissected by his own teammate, Ellyn Padme m*****f****** Amidala Touchette. However, infighting aside, Star Wars managed to take the win 5-2, bullseyeing the Trekkies like womp rats in Beggar’s Canyon. Look out, Disney, here we come!

Special thanks go to our hard-working celebrity judges for the night, of course, as well as whoever drank enough at the bar to give the Star Trek their consolation win for the night: the Kobayashi Maru outsold the Death Star 14-4.

Next Wednesday, we’ll be back, of course, with less strife, but all the intellectual character development; our feature will be Manchester’s Mckendy Fils-Aimé, all-star New England favorite, followed by an open poetry slam. See you there, poetry nerds!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Did you guys notice that this week is back to school week? Back to Old School, we mean! Ha! No, seriously, Ryk McIntyre was in the house last night, in all his punny and funny-old-guy glory, and carrying his latest book from Sargent Press. If you missed him tonight, you can catch him at the Lowell reading on September 16, so mark your calendars!

Just as we always have, we closed the night with our head-to-head 8×8 slam. The final round came down to new kid Josh Elbaum vs. less-new-less-kid Zeke Russell; in an inspiring victory for cane-wielding poets everywhere, Zeke took the win, leaving Josh to slam another day.

Next week: we’re back in the swing of the school year with birthday poet Jade Sylvan (Jade’s birthday, not necessarily yours), and a special spotlight feature from UK punk legend John Cooper Clarke. Looking forward to welcoming everyone back for the fall!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Given our topsy-turvy schedule this month, plus our newly long-lost regulars, it was a great relief to offer a homecoming of sorts to April Ranger last night. On a short stop back in Boston from her new residence in NYC, April brought us a full set of nearly all new work, all of it deeply thoughtful and intensely presented. How good to see her back on her home stage; don’t be a stranger, poet!

Our house turned out a full open mic for April, as well as a full slam, split just about evenly between newcomers and veterans: one of the former, Sterling Higa, faced off against 2014 slam team member Meaghan Ford in a highly polished finals! Meaghan used her home field advantage to the fullest and took the win, but we’re glad to welcome Hawaii native Sterling to the venue with a great showing to start his season.

Next week: we’re back with a feature from 1991/2005 slam team member Ryk McIntrye and another open slam in the 8×8 series. The students are officially back in town, so remember to show up early if you want a seat or a spot on the open mic!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 20, 2014

As sad as we were here at the Cantab to hear that our original feature for this night had to cancel, we are even super sadder to recap that we spent the night waving goodbye to Alex Ehrhardt and Melissa Newman-Evans, both of whom took the feature slot that night to honor leaving the Cantab for parts not here. Alex opened up with a dense set of introspective, extropsective, and speculative work, punctuated by his signature no-banter banter; a three-year veteran of the open mic, Alex leaves us behind to return to his roots in upstate new York. The headlining feature was Melissa, whose many years of service behind the bar, on the open mic stage, and as a two-time National Poetry Slam semi-finalist for the Boston Poetry Slam all culminated in a solidly sweet and sad set, highlighted by her custom-mixed Bitter Farewell, available for one bitter, bitter night only. Melissa departs us for Denver, Colorado, where she joins partner Kevin Spak in their new life, no doubt returning to meet us at NPS on the enemy side of the bout. Harumph!

As though to spite both the departing poets, the slam was wicked great, full of wonderfulness and weirdness from eight hard-working performers, hosted by our by-the-book latest working girl, Tom Slavin. The final pairing came down to relative newcomer Alex Hicks against longtime Northbeaster Mckendy Fils-Aimé: Mckendy edged out the win by a margin, taking ownership of the ten dollars and the first spot in the World Qualifiers for 2015.

Next week: SCHEDULE CHANGE (again!). Once again, our scheduled poet had to cancel her trip to New England for family obligations. However, we couldn’t stand to say goodbye to anyone else… So we’ve booked much-missed one-time regular and host April Ranger, who’ll hop a train from NYC just to fill the slot. Excellent!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A pretty sweet night at the Cantab went down last Wednesday, folks: we got to celebrate the triumphant return of most of our top-twenty 2014 Boston Poetry Slam Team, a killer feature from Jacob Rakovan, and a field of very serious NPS-caliber poets duking it out for the chance to challenge reigning Champion of Champions Ellyn Touchette for the venue title.

An open mic packed with veterans (and new work!) got us started, definitely impressing our feature and Poetry and Pie co-curator Jacob Rakovan. Jacob took the stage for a full feature afterwards, bringing us work from his first full-length publication, The Devil’s Radio, as well as excerpts of his latest long-form work. Very nice! If you find yourself in upstate New York, don’t hesitate to look up Jacob and the monthly reading he helps run.

The big close-out for the night was a highly competitive Champion of Champions slam. Sometimes, the week after the National Poetry Slam, we see a little dip in how competitive our local poets are feeling… Not this year! Six top-notch poets showed up to fight for a shot at the title, all of them bringing highly polished work and playing off one another’s pieces in the slam. The final pairing for the season championship came down to Nora Meiners (returning from repping the Lizard Lounge at NPS) and Bobby Crawford (a returnee for Slam Free or Die). Bobby proved the judges’ favorite and decided to let it ride to the ultimate champion round, facing off with reigning champ Ellyn in an all-new-to-the-Cantab-stage round! Bobby took the championship on a tight decision between the judges, earning the title and the $100 prize. What a great show!

Next week: WE HAVE A SCHEDULE CHANGE. Our original bookings, Tova Charles and Zai Sadler, are unfortunately not able to make it to New England this week. On such short notice, we are super-sad about the double feature we booked to fill: we’ll be waving a permanent moving farewell to both Melissa Newman-Evans and Alex Ehrhardt this week, so the two will take the stage for a tearful and not even sarcastic farewell from them both. Hope to see you there!

Check out the Boston Poetry Slam Team in NPS 2014 Semi-Finals Tonight!

Congratulations to the 2014 Boston Poetry Slam Team, who qualified for the semi-finals of the National Poetry Slam tonight! The team took a 2 and a 1 in their prelim bouts and nailed down 14th place (out of 72); now they’re headed into semis against Elevated!, Inkwell, SNO, and Hawaii, with the sole winner headed to Finals Stage on Saturday night. Awesome job so far, Janae, Oz, Sean, Meaghan, and Melissa! Melt some faces with poetry tonight!

For those who want to follow along with the scores, click here after 11 p.m. eastern time on Friday, August 8, 2014.

(In further cool neighborhood news, congrats to the Lizard Lounge Poetry Slam Team as well, who will be slamming in a different semi-final bout tonight.)

You can check out the full top-20 Friday line-up by clicking here, or see the complete rankings after prelims at this link. Go team! Go NorthBEAST! Go poetry!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 6, 2014

With the slam team out of town, it’s been anything but quiet at the Cantab… Just ask Adam Stone, who was hoping for a nice, peaceful, anti-slammy feature, but instead ended up playing to a packed house while soon-to-be-first-mate-bartender Emily Carroll was busy slinging custom cocktails. Adam took us, as he put it, on a non-personal non-journey, with a really fun selection of humor, allegory, and extended joke/metaphor, with one wacky cover and a good sprinkling of puns thrown in. That kind of mix is what qualifies him to be our bartender, folks.

The slam was the last in the 8×8 series, which meant that eight big names were vying for the win! Perennial finalist Nathan Comstock made it all the way to the last round again, but was ousted by an on-fire Sophia Holtz, who takes the last win of the series. Open slams start again on August 20.

Next week: we’re back with excellent Appalachian/Rochester poet Jacob Rakovan, author of The Devil’s Radio. Plus, all the NorthBEAST slam teams will be home from Nationals with stories to tell… Especially Ellyn Touchette, Port Veritas slam team member and reigning Champion of Champions, who’ll have to defend her title against eight bloodthirsty challengers! Slam on!

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, August 30, 2014

August has arrived, and with it the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California! This past Wednesday, we sent off our totally baller five-star team with a bang: Janae Johnson, Omoizele Okoawo, Sean Patrick Mulroy, Meaghan Ford, and Melissa Newman-Evans worked their talented patooties off for a full hour of solid and powerful feature. Despite being prolific writers (and Cantabbers) all, not a piece of paper hit the stage in this carefully crafted and highly polished feature of all our favorites and a few new surprises, including group pieces all shined up for Nationals!

The team leaves for Oakland on Monday, but won’t be bouting until Wednesday (just about at feature time at the Cantab, in fact). Can’t make it to the west coast to see them perform? You can at least follow along with the scoring play-by-play from PSi’s Erik Daniel:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Adam Stone will be mixing up drinks and presenting a much-anticipated feature of old and new work, lost and rediscovered tracks, and perhaps even a group piece or two– you know, just to put the team in their place. It’ll be a night full of snark (Adam) and sweetness (specialty cocktails, natch). We’ll also conclude our open slam series with the last slam in the 8×8 series.

But wait, there’s more! Since we know you’ll be itching for more poetry (and more spots on the open mics, ahem) with the teams out of town, we’ve got a first Thursday fix for you, too: our monthly edition of Moonlighting falls on August 7, this time featuring equally powerful and hilarious Portland poet Sarah Lynn Herklots, at Fazenda Coffee Roasters in JP.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kevin Spak at his July 24, 2014 feature. Photo by Marshall Goff.

A bittersweet night at the Cantab last night, folks: the much-beloved host and producer Kevin Spak presented a farewell feature for his birthday eve, one of the two remaining nights he’ll be a local regular at the Boston Poetry Slam. It wasn’t all tears and sadness, mind you: in honor of the night and his home venue, Spak presented a unique, carefully crafted, utterly new and incredibly fun murder mystery feature! Something like a cross between Cluedo, a Host Your Own Murder Mystery Party, and a superstar poetry headliner, the wild arc of Spak’s show had the audience hanging on every word. Here are some great shots of the show from Marshall Goff, one of our official BPS photographers:

Still wondering whodunnit? You’ll have just one more chance to buy Spak’s chapbook: next week at the 2014 Boston Poetry Slam Team send-off feature, wherein his partner, 2014 team member Melissa Newman-Evans, also bids us farewell for the airy confines of Denver, Colorado.

Mind you, some folks were able to make a perfectly good gander at the identity of the killer last night: our congratulations go to Nathan Comstock, who was the first to guess correctly (and win a free chapbook!). Unfortunately, Nathan’s luck only extended to the final round of the slam, where he was ousted by remarkable rising rookie Jake Villarreal. Congrats to Jake, who’ll be be one of eight folks looking to take on Ellyn Touchette at the Champion of Champions Slam in just a few weeks!

So, next week: as we said, it’s the 2014 Boston Poetry Slam Team send-off feature, which is a $5 cover charge in order to help fund our team go to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland in just a few short weeks. Team members Melissa Newman-Evans, Meaghan Ford, Sean Patrick Mulroy, Omoizele Okoawo, and Janae Johnson will rock the house for a full hour, delivering their most polished slam work and all the group pieces they’re packing to NPS… Plus the latest team chapbook will be available for purchase.

Cantab Recap for Wednesday, July 16, 2014

You guys. YOU GUYS. What a great slam at the Cantab last night! Thanks so much to everyone who came, and especially our kick-ass slammers from Port Veritas, Manchester, the Lizard Lounge, and Urbana NYC.

We started the night with an open mic, as usual, but a number of non-usual folks came out to see us; a good number of first-timers hit the stage, with so many new and interesting voices and ideas! Really hoping to see these folks back on one of our future Wednesdays.

The slam itself was a deathmatch among four teams slamming outside of their home venues and trying to win the crowd’s (and judges’) acclaim! Host Kevin Spak introduced the kick-off sacrifice, an energetic Emerson Poetry Project group piece about the politics of body wash by Kieran Collier and Maggie Dunleavey, the slam got underway quick with the transition from this funny and topical piece to the second sacrifice, an intense piece of on-page hindsight from visiting celebrity April Ranger. (And if those can’t prepare a set of slam judges for what’s about to happen to them, we don’t know what will.)

Round one started in earnest with an emergency substitution: Zanne Langlois, former Cantab Champion of Champions and fill-in for a missing Port Veritas slammer, kicked in the door with her working-parts school shooting poem. She was followed up by the first of many group pieces in the slam, a brand-new-to-us three-woman layered piece about “just girls” from Nora Meiners, Porsha Olayiwola, and Lissa Piercy of the Lizard Lounge. Urbana followed suit with Anthony Ragler and Omar Holmon offering excellently rendered advice to black men in horror films (“RUUUUUNN!”). Slam Free or Die was also riding high on the group piece love with a five-poet (!) “Spoiler Alert” that capitalized on the whole team of Christopher Clauss, Bobby Crawford, Sam Rush, Mckendy Fils-Aimé, and Tim Hopkins.

Ultimately, Urbana eeked out a 0.1 lead over the Lizard to take the first round more than a point ahead of the other two teams. Looking to seal the deal early, they hit the stage at the beginning of round two with Jared Singer and a sweetly constructed poem about “love in parts” with a great callback to SFoD’s spoiler alerts; however, despite a massive crowd response, the returned score was the lowest of the night, including a time penalty! The other three teams all looked to recover ground with a strong first-time showing from Portland rookie Kirsten Uhde, a solo piece from top SFoD scorer Christopher, and a second group piece from Lizard showcasing Lissa writing into a poem by Harlym125. Lizard took the top score in the round by just under a point, putting them up on Urbana by 0.8 and bringing all four teams to within two points of one another with two rounds remaining.

SFoD started out round three (slam’s traditional “weird round”) with Mckendy and a baller performance of “Whistling Vivaldi,” good enough make a two-point jump in the scores from the last round. However, Jared and Omar returned to the stage together for another high-energy group piece about their surprising lack of “uncle shower,” tieing with the previous poem even with another time penalty! The Lizard Lounge was also showcasing lots of group work in the slam, bringing a third piece to the stage that centered Harlym125 on the stage with four women offstage in a rapid-fire interview, while Port Veritas responded with a sweet solo piece from Arwyn Sherman on how a cat is preferable to a man-thing. Urbana took the top score in this round, cutting Lizard’s lead back down to 0.1 with SFoD just over a point behind.

Neiel Israel opened up the final round with the night’s biggest score so far (and what would stand as the highest solo score), a beautifully blocked piece about how a black man walks. Tim Hopkins followed strong for SFoD with a powerful piece about addiction in the suburbs. A third burn-up-the-stage solo piece about Merry Clayton came up next from Portland’s Ellyn Touchette. Finally, Urbana played one last group-piece with the much-anticipated duo of Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood, garnering the highest score of the night and topping the Lizard Lounge by just under a point.

Special thanks, of course, are due to our judges: Sam, Tyler, Colleen, Alaina, and the surprisingly efficient trio (!) of Amanda, Deepa, and Chevali. Applause and appreciation for these super-fast, super-consistent, and super-good-spirited folks who helped make the slam happen.

Final standings: Urbana #1, Lizard Lounge #2, Slam Free or Die #3, Port Veritas #4. Make no mistake, all four of these teams are mind-blowingly ready for the National Poetry Slam in just a few weeks. What an great night!

Next week: you’ve seen him host, now see him feature! Kevin Spak celebrates a birthday and moves to Denver all in the same week, so we might as well get some poems out of him, too. Don’t miss this lovely co-host’s farewell feature as we close another chapter in Cantab history.

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