Tonawanda News — Burton, 25, of East Buffalo, slams about the things most people don’t like to really talk about — topics like self-esteem, heartache, bullying and breakups. He slams, he said, because it’s a releasing experience and he believes the judges could sense that powerful release in his delivery.
“I just go at it. It’s my moment. It’s what makes me happy. So when I perform it’s like I’m giving a part of myself to the audience,” Burton said.
The Pure Ink Poetry Slam abides by national spoken-word competition rules. Each poet participates in two rounds and has three minutes to perform original content with a ten second “grace period” in which poets are safe to perform for three minutes and ten seconds without penalty. For every increment of ten seconds after the “grace period,” poets lose half a point off of their total score.
Judges are chosen randomly from the audience and poets are scored subjectively on a scale of 0-10 to one decimal point based on the strength of their performance and the quality of their content. Because the slam relies solely on crowd reaction, it is left in the poets’ hands to engage them with wit, humor and unrestricted creativity.
“(Poetry slams) are really something for the people,” said Thomas “Lazyrus” Panzarella, 28, a practicing poet from Kenmore who has won Pure Ink Poetry slams in the past. “You have to feel out the crowd. A lot of poets are real strategic about how they do it. If they see a certain amount of women (in the crowd), they’ll (think) OK, I’m going to do this particular piece because they play (the competition) like chess, like any other competitive thing.”
Slam culture in Buffalo reached its peak of activity from 2006 to 2008, when the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Just Buffalo Literary Center organized the Nickel City Slam Series, a monthly spoken-word competition where local poets and rhyme masters vied for a spot on a team which would represent Buffalo in the National Poetry Slam finals.