Photo by Katie Eleneke / The Collegian.
Joshua Chandler expressed his original piece through broken up verse as an open mic participant for the ‘anti-love’-themed poetry slam.
By Royce Dunn
Special to The Collegian
To offer an alternative to Valentine’s Day-themed events, the monthly Loud Mouth and Inner Ear poetry jams banded together in rejecting “love-based” poetry for an “anti-love” jam on Saturday, at Howie and Son’s Pizza in Visalia.
The “anti-love” jam was co-hosted by Visalia-based Loud Mouth and Fresno-based Inner Ear both slam poetry communities.
A poetry slam is a competition where people recite original works of poetry. Poets are selected from the audience by the MC host or DJ.
Michael Jasso, founder of The Loud Mouth poetry jam, thought the partnership would keep things fresh not only for the audience, but the poets.
Rather than speaking of traditional romance ,competitors in their performances, were encouraged to use misery, angst and comedic woe.
Penalties and special rules were established to ensure competitors stick to these guidelines.
“If they want to read a love poem, they have to replace the word ‘love’ with an appropriate synonym, or if they are feeling brave, they could use an antonym,” Jasso said Saturday.
The competition’s prize was a championship belt, a new tradition within the Loud Mouth community.
The reigning belt holder will be given an entrance fee waiver for the next poetry session.
The belt is also used as a winner’s eligibility for a special competition in June for Loud Mouth.
“We use the belt because we want to have the best of the best on our team,” Jasso said.
Jasso was not alone in wanting to change things up this Valentine’s Day. The Inner Ear jam in Fresno, created and hosted by Bryan Medina, has also rallied against love this month with an event planned on Feb. 21.
“We are doing our ‘Love Stinks II’ from our first ‘love’ themed event about five years ago,” Medina said.
Offering the Central Valley a different perspective on traditional romance is expected to challenge not only the poets but also the audience.
“It forces the writers—if they want to—to maybe change up their writing and style and try something new or possibly challenging. But isn’t that what real writers do? I like to think so,” Medina said.
Both the Loud Mouth and Inner Ear were initially founded as creative outlets for young and aspiring poets and thinkers.
Denise Vela, an English major at Fresno State, has been a frequent spectator of both since first attending Fresno City College.
Vela watched her fellow students and teachers express their inner most thoughts and ideas on stage.
Although the slams are competitive, the jams also encourage open-mic for those interested in sharing their pieces in a welcoming environment.
“It’s this community of connection that you get between human beings; that’s what really keeps you going back and makes you feel welcome,” Vela said.
Although Vela does not compete, she said she gains perspective from the positive atmosphere of the shows and the crowd’s energy.
“Everybody is there voluntarily; they’re there to hear what you have to say and you get all these different perspectives and opinions, all these different and creative ideas,” Vela said.
The Inner Ear has been involved in poetry jams for nearly 12 years—an inspiration and influence for Jasso. Jasso first attended an Inner Ear performance in Fresno because there was yet a poetry jam community in Visalia.
“I wasn’t willing to wait around for anyone else to start it up, so I decided that I would do it,” Jasso said.
The Loud Mouth slam has been steadily growing since its start in July 2012. Featuring Scurvy—a local favorite—as well as other poets from the Bay Area and Los Angeles has helped Loud Mouth gained notable attention.
Jasso has also decided to enter Loud Mouth in a national slam competition, which will take place in August.
Loud Mouth’s championship competition in June will determine which poets will be selected for nationals.
“I want a combination of Fresno poets and Visalia poets; really we’re the only registered slam team for nationals this year for the entire Central Valley,” Jasso said.