This city’s got some damn fine poetry going on. And, once again, we've got the rankings to prove it. Last weekend in Charlotte, NC, Central Texas had another stellar showing at this year's National Poetry Slam.
Teams that do not advance to semis but have the best group poems get placed in Group Piece Finals, a competitive showcase of some of the best team pieces at Nationals. Without a doubt, this is where Neo Soul wound up after they won their second preliminary bout.
“We didn’t make semis, but there was a reason we didn’t,” Neo Soul member Zai Sadler said. “I was really happy we made Group Piece Finals and got to showcase all the hours of work we put in.”
Meanwhile, Christopher Michael and I made the quarterfinals of Head to Head Haiku, where entrants pit actual haiku against one another and work their way through a bracket in rounds of increasing length. Hysterically, the finals are a best-of-seventeen round that tests the depth and breadth of your haiku skills.
Christopher Michael and I agreed before the match that if we made the championship together, we would bring it to the final haiku, embrace and then quit the match. It was our hope that we could teach the audience a valuable lesson about teamwork and friendship before ending the movie in a freeze-frame jump.
But when we met in the semi-final match, the gloves came off. “I lost to some no-name,” Christopher Michael said of the end result (referring to me, of course). To his credit, I did go on to win, bringing home the first of the three official championships to Austin.
While Austin Poetry Slam failed to advance out of their semi-final bout that night, Killeen Poetry Slam won, securing a spot on the final stage.
“It was the first time I made semi-finals and that was awesome," said Austin Poetry Slam team member Zach Caballero. "Even sweeter was that Killeen made finals."
Meanwhile, Neo Soul, who placed third in Group Piece Finals last year, went up against some of the best group poems at the National Poetry Slam and came out on top, becoming the National Poetry Slam Group Piece Champions, and earning a spot to perform on the final stage prior to the main competition.
With two of the three official championships wrapped up, only the final stage remained. After a fierce bout, Killeen Poetry Slam placed second in the nation, only behind Slam New Orleans.
“I’m really hyped that Texas and Central Texas put on a good show for everyone,” Zai Sadler said. “[Going to Nationals is] beyond the team; you’re representing a whole bunch of people, the community and the city. It’s bigger than just you.”
The show continues at home as slam venues will be celebrating the return of their winning teams this week. Austin Poetry Slam holds slams every Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. at the 29th St. Ballroom and Neo Soul hosts and open mics every Thursday beginning at 9:00 p.m. at 11th Street Station.