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Slam Poets Take National Stage In Charlotte

The national championships of slam poetry are in Charlotte for the first time. Every evening through Saturday, poets are on stage Uptown trying to win over audiences with an art form that's as much performance as poetry. When a slam poet performs, they call it "spitting." When BlaqBaree spits, she has the staccato-and-punch delivery that makes slam poetry so distinctive. But BlaqBaree (she goes by Rochelle Stanley when she's teaching English at Garringer High School) says there's really only one rule for the genre. "You have 3 minutes and 10 seconds to get your point across," says Stanley. Rhyming is optional. So are onstage theatrics. The goal is to do whatever you have to do to reach the audience. And so, the judges for the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte are literally plucked from the audience at random each night. "We prefer judges that have no idea or anything to do with slam poetry, whatsoever because they are representative of the population as a whole," says Stanley. Stanley says many slam teams wait to see who the judges are before selecting poems from their arsenal for the night's bout (that's what you call a round of slam competition). Seventy-two teams from around the country are competing for a grand prize of $2,000 and national bragging rights. The final bout is Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Knight Theater. For a full schedule of National Poetry Slam competition, visit http://nps2012charlotte.com/.