“Poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words.”
— Edgar Allan Poe
Poetry has existed since people began using language. Even before literacy, poetry was the art of putting words together, utilizing rhythm, chant and recitation to convey a story or some information, feeling, or entertainment. The oldest known poems in the Vedas and The Odyssey probably were written in rhyme and meter to help people remember them and share them.
Most of us have studied some poetry in school. We usually have familiarity with Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson for instance. If you are of a certain age you probably were required to memorize poems.
In the 1990s spoken word poetry became popular and poetry “slams” soon followed. A poetry slam is a competition where poets gather to recite and perform their poetry. Slam poetry often addresses important social issues such as racial, economic and gender injustices. It is a powerful way to hear opinions and to hear the deeply felt and the hard to feel. It also is way to create conversation about subjects that we might not ordinarily discuss.
This Saturday, June 24, the Del Ray Players will be hosting the first Del Ray Poetry Slam at Fireflies, 1501 Mt. Vernon Ave. It begins and 8 p.m. and is open to poets of all ages.
The Great Del Ray Poetry Slam was the brilliant idea of Alexandria artist, Neal Learner. Neal is a musician and lyricist as well as a writer and community activist. His opera, “LIFE: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts” will début at the Capital Fringe Festival in July (see capitalfringe.org for more information). Neal also has formed a production company called The Del Ray Players that creates and promotes performances like music, poetry and opera.
Neal had read Rob Krupicka’s poetry on Facebook and in the Zebra and reached out to Rob to suggest the poetry slam in Del Ray. Rob Krupicka is, of course, the owner of Sugar Shack Donuts and a former Alexandria councilman and Virginia delegate. Rob thought it was a great idea and they enthusiastically began to move ahead. Neal contacted me as well, and asked me to be a part of the event as Alexandria’s poet laureate which I am thrilled to do.
Neal began writing poetry when he was young and remembers writing a poem in the second grade that begins:
Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse
Lives in a sticky house.
Rob began writing poetry in college and has continued to write regularly since then. Many of you may have enjoyed his “50 Miles of Haikus” and “With Few Words.”
Although neither Neal nor Rob nor I are slam poets we each appreciate the form. Rob says, “I like the personal honesty of it. It is raw and vulnerable and very human. Experiencing it can be very powerful.” I completely agree. Actually in the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting and hearing two of Alexandria’s young and extremely talented slam poets. Lindsay Tucker and Jerrel Courtney are students at T.C. Williams and both are rising poetry stars. We hope they will join us at the Del Ray Slam.
We really hope that the community will come out to share in this slam poetry event. If you are a slam poet, please sign up to share your art. If you are curious, interested and want to have an awesome experience please come listen to the poets in our community and cheer them on. Let’s make Del Ray and Alexandria a center for poetry and the arts! Please join us this Saturday. We look forward to seeing you.
For more information on The Great Del Ray Poetry Slam, visit www.facebook.com/delrayplayers.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendi R. Kaplan is poet laureate of Alexandria.