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Say Word: Slam Poetry Comes Full Circle in RVA a Decade Later

Story by Megan-Rickman Blackwood

This Sunday, The Writer’s Den, a collective of slam poets from Richmond, will be performing at Say Word Sunday. Say Word is an intimate open mic poetry show that is hosted in the Dark Room at the Historic Hoffheimer Building. It is a monthly open mic which maintains a free and open space for artists around the city to showcase their work. This month, The Writer’s Den Slam Team will be featuring some of the work they will be presenting at this year’s Southern Fried Poetry Slam in Fayetteville, NC.

If you’re unfamiliar with the slam poetry concept, it’s a pretty basic tournament style competition. During the 1980’s in Chicago, the format was honed, as a way to get bar patrons to pay attention to the poetry being performed at open mics around the city. It grew in popularity spawning international competitions that drew poets from around the world, and television programs such as HBO and Russell Simmons’ Brave New Voices.

In Richmond the event was introduced by Tom Sanchez Prunier and Jason Moore at Slam Richmond, the venue went on to send multiple teams to multiple competitions. In 2009, a team of rookies was sent to the nation’s biggest regional competition, The Southern Fried Poetry Slam. That year, the first Slam Richmond had participated, Roscoe Burnems, Lee “Narrator” Jones and Megan Rickman-Blackwood, competed on the team that would go on to take 3rd place.

Now in 2019, The Writer’s Den Poetry Team is hoping to capture that same energy and revisit final stage a decade later. Adding rookie, Makaia “The Stuttering Poet” Ransom to the line up, the team will be representing the City of Richmond amongst 76 other teams and individual competitors for the title of Best Poets in The South. 

We spoke with founder and coach of The Writer’s Den, Roscoe Burnems about the upcoming tournament and here is what he had to say;

I’m excited about going to Southern Fried because it is this beautiful celebration of Art and creation, especially for artists from the South who usually aren’t celebrated, and who don’t have a voice in the mainstream scene. Also this is the 5th team we have sent as Writer’s Den and it’s really cool to be a part of keeping the legacy of Richmond’s spoken word scene together, and alive. The first time Richmond attended a Southern Fried was in 2009, and we sent myself, Megan and Rator. We had this amazing a team of full rookies, and we made final stage. Which is close to unheard of, I mean, no one knew who we were. For that to come full circle ten years later with the same people it feels euphoric to be in this position.

We asked Roscoe what we as a community, and as a city could do to support The Writer’s Den as it prepares to send their team to Southern Fried

Definitely come to the events we have scheduled. We will be performing at Say Word this Sunday as a fundraiser for travel and lodging costs. We also host a monthly poetry slam the last thursday of the month, every month at Addis Ethiopian Restaurant right down by the 17th St Market. Every little bit helps, you can donate to @thewritersdenrva via cash app, additionally we have sponsorships available for businesses in the community that want to show the country that art means as much to them, as their business community here in Richmond means to us.

Anyone interested in learning more can email or visit them on Facebook or Instagram @thewritersdenrva

  • What: Say Word Sunday
  • When: Sunday, May 19, 2019
    Doors @ 7pm
    Show @ 8pm
  • Where: The Dark Room; The Hof – 2818 W Broad St, Richmond, Va 23230
  • Cost: FREE!!!

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