Ah, Savannah. Land of shrimp and grits, Spanish moss and poetry.
Perhaps literary art is not the first thing that pops into your head during quiet reveries about our dear city. But from the dandified folks at Seersucker Live to the dynamic performers of Spitfire Inc., the Savannah poetry scene is alive and thriving.
The eighth annual Savannah Spoken Word Festival from April 21-27 will present a smorgasbord of talent during National Poetry Month. The event bridges all of the local poetry organizations in a week-long celebration that includes workshops, youth-centered events, and of course, all-star slams.
On April 21, a poetry battle between two formidable posses will kick off the proceedings. Contestants will vie in a three-round battle, awarded points by a panel of judges. Hosting will be Charles "Mafamadix" Singleton of All Walks Of Life, a youth enrichment nonprofit.
The leaders behind the festival have started a modest Kickstarter campaign to help promote various events, rent all-ages spaces and compensate performers. Several veteran wordsmiths are visiting from Atlanta, Jacksonville and Charleston.
This is where the page meets the stage. Slam poetry is composed expressly with the intention of performance - the concept of community is built right into the words. The poetry is often fearless, broaching topics of religion, politics, relationships and race.
Local impresario Jon M. Lattimore, also known as JLat Tha Moor, describes a poetry slam as "a competition between either a group of poets or individuals poets who use their intellect, wit and skill to wow a crowd in front of judges for points."
Lattimore, a founding member of the Savannah State University-based group Way Of Real Discovery, has a vested interest in hyping this year's battle. His group was "just barely" edged out by Spitfire last year, and he intends for a different outcome this year.
The prize, he says, is "bragging rights." Last year, all of the proceeds from entry into the event went to St. Jude Children's Hospital.
Truly, the real mission is to unify and lionize Savannah's creative community. WORD's stated mission is to "serve the community through the arts of spoken word poetry, hip-hop and song, utilizing these crafts to deliver social, cultural and edu-tainment programs." Spitfire's is to "cultivate an atmosphere that encourages individuals to use creativity as a tool of empowerment and togetherness."
It's basically a battle of good versus good in which everybody wins. Last year's events crisscrossed Savannah hotspots, with events at the Book Lady, Indigo Sky Community Gallery, Muse Arts Warehouse, Abeni Cultural Arts Performing Dance Studio and Foxy Loxy CafÃ©.
"The talent is here in spoken word, hip hop, dance and instrumentals," muses Lattimore. "It's important to know that the art and entertainment scene is alive in Savannah."