Beginning this week, Savannah poets and spoken word artists will have a new night to spit.
Not an oral hygiene problem, “spit” is open mike poetry lingo for“standing on a stage behind of a microphone performing poetry in front of a crowd.”
The Frantic Rabbit Poetry Open Mike at the Sentient Bean is expanding its schedule to the first two Thursdays of each month, starting July 6.
Typically the night begins with non-competitive open mike performances, followed by a scored poetry competition aka, a slam. Most weeks, a featured artist performs a 30-minute show between the two segments. On July 13 the Frantic Rabbit featured artist will be the poetry group Arts Amok from Atlanta’s Seven Stages Theater.
Frantic Rabbit organizers Rushelle Frazier and Corey Houlihan have even bigger plans for Savannah’s poetry scene than merely providing one more night of action.
Their vision is to assemble a Savannah-based team to compete in the National Poetry Slam (NPS) in 2007. Expanding Frantic Rabbit is part of their strategy.
“There’s way too much poetry in Savannah that there hasn’t been a national slam team,” says Frazier, host for the Frantic Rabbit at the Sentient Bean since last fall. “Everyone tells me there was [a local team] once….”
“It’s like a mythical slam team,” says Houlihan.
Frazier, 22, is host of Frantic Rabbit. She was on the Worcester, Mass., slam team in 2002, and coached that town’s youth team in 2004.
Houlihan, 28, competed in the collegiate nationals on the University of Arkansas’ national champ team in 2003, and competed in nationals with them in 2004. Earlier this year, shortly after moving to Savannah, she appeared as the featured poet at Frantic Rabbit.
“Our goal is to make the Bean a certified site” for hosting poetry slams, says Frazier. Slams held there will follow guidelines established by the NPS, including no musical instruments, no props, no ‘cover’ poems (i.e. reading poems written by other people) during the competitive portion of the event, and adherence to time limits for each performance.
“In layman’s terms, the Bean will become the venue.” says Houlihan “It will be listed on the NPS website, and any poet that comes to the slam to compete could qualify to become a member of the slam team.”
Once a community has a certified site listed on the national slam website, that city’s visibility increases in the spoken word network across the country. Nationally acclaimed poets will make more visits to Savannah, increasing local interest about spoken word and continuing to expand the scene here.
The absence of a certified slam site in Savannah sends a message that there isn’t a strong local spit community.
“Right now a lot of [national performers] don’t come here,” says Frazier.
“That’s due to stereotypes,” says Houlihan. “Touring poets will go to the NPS certified sites.”
Frazier and Houlihan are in touch with organizers of Spitfire Poetry Group and A.W.O.L., two other poetry groups that sponsor events around town, in hopes that members of all three groups will come together to create Savannah’s slam team.
“We’re not trying to come from a competitive angle or exclusive angle,” says Houlihan. “We go to their events.”
During Spitfire’s annual Spoken Word Festival this past May, Frazier was named Savannah’s Female Poet of the Year, and Houlihan won their slam during the weekend-long event.
“I’m excited about the slam team. It’s a great opportunity to collaborate,” says Renazance, one of the organizers of Spitfire Poetry Group.
“To represent Savannah, going anywhere outside of Savannah, we definitely want to be a part of what’s going on. That will only enhance the slam team, and that whole experience.”
“Everybody’s free to join,” says Frazier.
“Their goal is the same as ours,” says Houlihan. We want to see a cool scene happen here. We want it to be community based, not ego based. Our slogan is ‘Less ego, more heart.’’
Catch Frantic Rabbit the first and second Thursdays every month, 7:30 p.m. at The Sentient Bean, 13 East Park Avenue, 232-4447. Free admission. Hat passed for slam prize and for featured artists.
Thursday, July 13, featured artist--Arts Amok Poetry Group from Atlanta. For more information: myspace.com/franticrabbitpoetry