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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas Grand Slam

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File A poet competes in last year’s Texas Grand Slam. 

One of the largest slam poetry competitions in the state, Texas Grand Slam will bring poets to Bryan-College Station this weekend for its fourth year of competition, poetry and culture.
The two-day poetry event, hosted by Mic Check, will feature 42 poets and span several locations. Preliminary rounds will be Friday at the Village Cafe, Revolution Cafe and Grand Stafford Theatre.
This year, the final stage will be on campus Saturday in Rudder Auditorium.
Mic Check President Madison Parker, Class of 2014 and co-director of Texas Grand Slam, said A&M is an unlikely location for a poetry festival, but an appropriate one because of the growing spoken-word population in the area.
“A lot of other slams, they’ll bring out a lot of poets, and their audience can be in the thousands, but in Rudder Auditorium that’s 2,500 people that will be coming to watch slam poetry, and that’s on A&M’s campus in Bryan-College Station,” Parker said. “And so it’s really cool to see something like that even take place in Bryan-College Station, because it’s not the location that most people are expecting.”
Former Mic Check president Bill Moran, Class of 2010, said the spoken-word culture in Bryan-College Station was still developing when he became involved in 2008.
“When I first started reading there it was incredibly small, very tight-knit — it was in a rebuilding phase,” Moran said. “They were building back up an audience and a community.”
Since then, Mic Check has exposed the community to more poetry. TGS poet coordinator Aleenah Spencer said Mic Check, as well as TGS, has accumulated a bigger following.
“It’s definitely gotten a larger crowd, a lot more people interested in Mic Check and in spoken word in general,” Spencer said. “We’ve also gotten more funding from other companies and help from other organizations involved with Texas A&M.”
Parker said the number of poets competing increases each year. The competition has included poets from New York, California, Louisiana, Colorado and more.
TGS features many poets new to performing and allows them an opportunity to experience the stage for the first time in a supportive atmosphere, Moran said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been reading a week or 10 years, you’re going to be welcomed and you’re going to have a good time,” Moran said. “We do have a lot of new poets who come and just do awesome and they have a really good time with it. Audience or poet, I think they’ll appreciate it.”
The different styles of the competing poets as well as the audience usually determine the festival’s overall feel, Moran said.
“It shakes out in different ways depending on who comes out, but I’m expecting it to be the same — just a great environment, a great reading,” Moran said.
Instead of the competitiveness found at most other national poetry festivals, TGS has a more welcoming atmosphere, Moran said.
“Whether they come in first or last, they’re happy to be there and they want to make friends and it’s welcoming,” Moran said. “They’re not there with an agenda, it’s not work. It’s a lot of fun, which is why I’m going.”
Spencer said TGS has made it possible for community members to convey their emotions in an unconventional way.
“I think we’ve just provided the ability for anyone to have a voice and to be able to express their feelings or just be able to talk to an audience by putting it all out there, but not necessarily having a one-on-one conversation,” Spencer said.
Moran, who has competed across the country in national poetry festivals, said TGS measures up well.
“Unbiased, even if I wasn’t from Bryan or from College Station — Texas Grand Slam, as a poet, is just one of the best festivals because it’s very much rooted in kindness and gratitude for poetry and everyone’s excited about poetry, which is huge,” Moran said.
The competition will start at 6 p.m. Friday and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

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