Phoenix Comicon 2015 Countdown: Geeky illumination awaits you at the Nerd Poetry Slam

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The Klute - Nerd Poetry Slam PHXCC 2014
The Klute – Nerd Poetry Slam, PHXCC 2014

It has been said that / poetry is a language / created by nerds. Well, I don’t know that anyone ever actually said that, but I think the statement kind of counts as a haiku, so hopefully I’m covered. At any rate, nerds and poetry go together like Superman and Lois Lane, Batman and Robin, Rocket and Groot … you get the idea … and to prove the point Phoenix Comicon 2015 will be hosting its 6th annual Nerd Poetry Slam – an event you do not want to miss.

A lot of people know about the convention events like the Masquerade Costume Contest, and they are keen on getting autographs by guests like Summer Glau and Karl Urban, but not many know that they could hear the awesome spoken word artist, Joy Young, wax poetic about her fear of disintegrating during teleportation. (Try doing that, Dr. McCoy.)

Many people, yes, even geeks, shy away from anything with the “poetry” word attached to it, which keeps the Nerd Poetry Slam one of the best kept secrets of the convention, but you will never find a more entertaining and talented hive of intelligent nerds anywhere. So throw caution to the wind and give it a try.

This year the “Slam” is once again hosted by Arizona’s Nerd Poet Laureate, The Klute (a super-man I once saw scare off a band of burly bikers, armed with nothing but his words and his wit – true story.) The bad-boy poet talked to us about the history of the Con’s Nerd Poetry event and his plans for this year’s show.

The Klute - Nerd Poetry Slam PHXCC 2014
The Klute – Nerd Poetry Slam, PHXCC 2014

The Nerd Poetry Slam was a competition before its involvement with PHXCC, correct? What’s the history of the event?

It started at the 2004 National Poetry Slam in St. Louis. There are many events at the National show [and] two slam poets (Robb Q. Telfer and Shappy Seasholtz) saw the side events geared towards various demographic slices (LGBTQ, African-American, Latino/a, Women, etc), but they knew that amongst all those groups there were people who appreciated comic books, sci-fi, cartoons, etc., and they felt they could unify everyone under a single banner: Nerd. It took off from there. It’s become one of the highlights of the Poetry Slam since. I had the privilege of hosting it at the National level in 2012 and 2013.

We both know that the Nerd Poetry Slam (NPS) is one of the most entertaining events at the Comicon, but how do you convince people who aren’t poetry fans to come?

Well, we try to keep the event fun. I like to think I’m an engaging MC who keeps the audience involved in the show, and we always have great panelists who know how to interact with the crowd. Last year we had Joy Young, a queer circus poet; David Lee Summers, an astronomer from Kitt Peak Observatory; Lauren Perry, a pin-up model and veteran slam poet; and April O’Neil, an adult film actress. You could have had a good time just listening to the panelists.

But if you’re not a poetry fan, you will be after the NPS. The poets who perform have such creative and unique perspectives on fandom (from Doctor Who to Thundercats to Star Wars and so on) that I don’t think you can leave the event and not have an appreciation of poetry and spoken word.

Lauren Perry - Nerd Poetry Slam PHXCC 2014
Lauren Perry – Nerd Poetry Slam, PHXCC 2014

Who are some of the guests, participants and judges that you have lined up this year?

I’m still in the process of finding our guest judges, but I know for certain that Jesse Parent, an amazing slam poet from Salt Lake City is coming down to perform and judge. He’s known for his improv work and his work in slam (he’s been a finalist at the Individual World Poetry Slam at least three times) and in 2014 he garnered worldwide media attention for his poem, “To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter.” He also has this fantastic poem about the Red Lantern Corps.

Another is Christopher Fox Graham, the slammaster of the Sedona Poetry Slam and, I think, 10-time National Poetry Slam poet. Not only is he a Nerd Master in his own right (CFG’s teams are known to carry lightsabers with them when they go to the National Poetry Slam), but he is a haiku deathmatch master and is the city desk editor for Sedona’s Red Rock News.

What’s the wackiest subject you’ve heard used in a NPS poem?

Too many to count. One particular one that stands out was a fairly creepy but sweet love poem from one serial killer to another.

What do you think makes nerdiness and poetry such a perfect marriage?

I think poetry is inherently nerdy because poetry, like good sci-fi, is forward looking. Prose tells you how things are; poetry tells you how things should be. It’s up to the audience/reader to decide if they agree.

Tristan Marshell - Nerd Poetry Slam PHXCC 2014
Tristan Marshell – Nerd Poetry Slam, PHXCC 2014

What kind of pop culture material has inspired your poetry for the competition?

Oh so much stuff. I think I use the movie “Aliens” as thematic device in a few poems. The line from that film: “Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure,” is pure poetry. I’ve also used superhero mythology in more than a few poems: the conflict between Aquaman and Black Manta as a metaphor for racism in America; a young X-Man tries to fit in at Xavier’s School for the Gifted; How I am a Super-villain? (that last one was published in MultiVerse: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry by Write Bloody Publishing).

What genre do you see used most at the Slam? (Superheroes, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, etc.)

One thing that has been really heartening is that people haven’t been necessarily focused on a specific genre, but rather the idea of ‘Nerd Pride’ – that we are all in this together. In 2013 there was this one poet who riled the crowd up so much I thought we were going to march on Chase Field and have it out with the baseball fans.

I, myself, am working on a debuting an Adventure Time poem this year. For all the Adventure Time cosplay that I see at Comicon, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard an Adventure Time poem.

The KluteWhat would you say are your NPS and NPS hosting bona fides?

Besides hosting the Nerd Slam at the National Poetry Slam, Individual World Poetry Slam, Copper State Poetry Slam, and Vancouver Poetry Festival, and being published in MultiVerse!, and writing poems where the Flintstones die during the K-T Event and how Sarah Palin is the Xenomorph Queen and how Cthulhu wrote a cookbook? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?!?

If someone wants to participate in the NPS, how do they get involved?

Show up. You’ll have to check the Comicon guide to find out exactly when/where we are (Saturday, May 30, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.) You’ll get to sign up, declare your ‘Nerd Discipline,’ and get ready to read your poem. Bring your own work (or if your friend is too shy to read it themselves, you can read it for them). Win fabulous prizes!

Get details and updates on Phoenix Comicon 2015:

Read all of our Phoenix Comicon countdown coverage: Phoenix Comicon 2015 Countdown

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.


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