What is a "sacrificial poet"?
I've been writing about the Buffalo area literary scene for over a quarter century, but have never heard the term. There's been a lot of talk about budget cuts in the arts lately, to say nothing of the withering of liberal arts programs in higher education. But I never thought it would come to this.
Fortunately, my talented friend N'Tare Gault assuaged my worst fears. The hard-working founder of the Njozi Poets and dynamic spoken word artist in his own right patiently explained to me the meaning of the term in his press release for tonight's QEW Regional Poetry Slam running from 5 to 9 at the 2nd Cup Cafe, 36 Broadway (near Ellicott Street) in Buffalo.
"A 'sacrificial poet' in the competitive culture of poetry slams is a poet who helps calibrate the judges," Gault explained. "They're not actually in the competition but they are timed and get scored as if they were. This is done so that the first person in the competition is not dealing with 'cold' judges resulting in a lower score than they might otherwise deserve. To be invited to be a "sacrificial poet" at a poetry slam is actually an honor and connotes a position of esteem in the community."
The "sacrificial poets" for tonight's event will be Ronald “Rock Bottom 137” Jackson and Jennifer Elinge. They will join featured performer, host, and master or ceremonies William Evans of Columbus, Ohio, a multiple prize-winning veteran of the national poetry slam circuit.
As for QEW Regional Poetry Slam itself, Gault couldn't be more enthusiastic. The annual event brings 24 of the leading slam competition poets from Western and Central New York and the Southern Ontario area together to compete for individual honors as well as represent six "teams" of performers for regional bragging rights.
Even if you aren't into the competitive aspect of poetry slams, this is an exciting showcase of two dozen of the top spoken word artists in the upstate New York and southern Ontario region performing their strongest material," Gault explains. In 2009, Ontario's Burlington Slam Project edged Gault's Buffalo based Njozi Poets by the narrowest of margins--just three tenths of a point in the judges' scores -- to take the overall title, but this is a new year Gault assures us, and the competition will be even keener.
The six teams competing tonight's honors include:
The Underground Poetry Spot (Syracuse):
Marquis Woolford aka Prophesa X, Michael Gaut aka Mic Tha Poet, Ruthine Angrand aka Rae of Sunshine, and Seneca Wilson aka Kind of a One
The Njozi Poets (Buffalo):
Erika Haygood, Brandon Williamson, Ntare Ali Gault and Toronto’s Dwayne Morgan
Uncommon Sense (Buffalo):
Marquis “10,000” Burton, Johnny Proper, Matt Murdock and Monique Murphy
The Burlington Slam Project (Burlington):
Tomy Bewick, Truth Is, Jogindra Siewrattan and Made Wade
Lineup to be announced
Toronto Poetry Slam (Toronto):
Yehuda “Pan” Fisher, Kay’la Fraser and two poets to be announced
Tickets can be purchased for $15 in advance at Doris Records on 286 East Ferry St. in Buffalo (883-2410)and for $20 at the door. For more information call (716) 553-9491.