Originally created 03/09/06

Soultry Sounds' poetry contest is family affair

Words can be deceiving.

For instance, some people think that a poetry slam is a contest in which the audience yells and shouts down the reader. But, according to Travis Wright, 35, the host and originator of The Spoken Word at Soultry Sounds Cafe and Lounge on Ellis Street, that is not the intent.

"No, this is not amateur night at the Apollo. People are not booed off the stage and thrown tomatoes at. That is not what poetry is all about," Mr. Wright said. "We (poets) are all one big, happy family unit."

A slam is a three-round elimination, with points awarded for stage presence, lyrical content and original material. You can get up to three points in each category, and the top score in a three-judge contest is 27 points per round. The top three advance to a second round, then two face off in the final round. Poetry slams are held the third Thursday of each month at Soultry Sound, with the winner earning $100. Open-microphone nights for reading and singing are held other Thursdays.

Mr. Wright said that the spoken word is a market that needed to be tapped into, that it provides Augusta with an alternative form of entertainment. His stage name is Brotha Trav, the Poetry Dude.

"People may not know my real name, but they know me as The Poetry Dude," he said.

He has presided at poetry readings in the Augusta area for a decade, at several locations. Each night has been different because of the diversity of the poets.

"What I really like about poetry is that it doesn't have an age attached to it; it doesn't have a race attached to it; it doesn't have a gender attached to it. It's basically just writing, and everyone's story is going to be different because you're writing from your heart," he said.

One local poet who reads every week is Jennifer Branch, 35, a wife and mother of three boys.

"I have to write poetry as an outlet. Whatever I'm going through comes out as poems," Mrs. Branch said.

She participates in the Poetry Slam as His Messenger.

"It's very competitive. It seems like it's not, but when you are actually a part of it, you see how people are really focused and people really want to win. That can be difficult for me because that's not always what I'm there for," she said. "I'm there for the opportunity to share what I'm feeling."

Hearing other poets inspires her.

"Sometimes you hear something that is so deep and so intense, you'll think, 'Oh, man, I'm really not writing about nothing.' They will read something and you'll realize, 'I wasn't conscious of this' until you hear it."

Many of the participants at the Soultry Sounds' events are Paine College students. Psychology student Zaraus "Zeke" Beard, 22, is a regular. He won the Poetry Slam in February.

A similar event that's open to the public is held bimonthly at Paine, with Mr. Beard as the host. The event's dates and times are posted around campus.

"My poetry is life. It's the many things I have experienced, feel and believe in. I try to spread a message, express my mind and just be free, in a sense," Mr. Beard said.



To experience the poetry slam at Soultry Sounds, launch Annette Drowlette's audio slide show about the contest.


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