Tonawanda News — Star-shaped lanterns and warm, glowing light fixtures hung over head illuminated tiny tables encircling the stage. Competitors sat among a small but sprightly crowd, jotting down last-minute thoughts, flipping through rehearsed material and absorbing the ambience.
As the lighting dimmed, the emcee for the night’s event approached the microphone. Chatter fell into a lull as he threw his body and vocal chords into a brief introduction that commanded the attention of the entire room: a fiery, soulful performance of Def Jam poet Saul Williams’ poem, “Ohm.”
“Scores don’t matter. Poetry is the point of the poetry slam,” said Brandon Williamson, 27, of North Buffalo, after delivering his demonstration, a teaser of what was to come.
No Shakespearean sonnets were recited at the most recent Pure Ink Poetry Slam at Merge restaurant in Buffalo, a monthly spoken-word competition held the second Wednesday of every month. Instead, there was plenty of soul food to feast on as each poet stepped on stage with uninhibited expression, full of artistic zeal.
The performance element is the difference between the conventional definition of a poetry reading and the modern twist, a poetry “slam,” said Williamson, the Pure Ink Poetry slam’s creator.
“What the slam performance does is it brings the work to life. Each poet somehow finds a way to embody the work that they’ve written. You can see the emotion behind what they’ve written, you can see the conviction behind what they’ve written,” he added.
Marquis “Ten Thousand” Burton looked down at the ground, closed his eyes and paused before speaking. His eyes were ablaze. His mouth was ready. And when he spoke, the words poured out into a soul-healing display of unadulterated emotion that echoed throughout the restaurant and won him the title of Pure Ink Poetry “Slam Master.”