Organizer Dasha Kelly: 'I can't wait to bring the big boys in and show them how we do it here in Wisconsin.'
The Urban Spoken Word Collective at Genna's, credits "the growing reputation of Madison and Wisconsin poetry" for this triumph. This year's 22nd annual competition, dubbed Lyrics on the Lake, will take place in the heart of downtown Madison over the week of Aug. 3-9. Organizers are expecting teams from some 84 different cities in North America and Europe to compete, a portion of the nearly 1,000 performers, writers, educators and activists set to participate in the festival.
Venues for the National Poetry Slam (NPS) bouts are getting confirmed, volunteers are being amassed, and entertainment plans are getting finalized. Daytime events are scheduled to be held at the High Noon Saloon, Brink Lounge, Bartell Theatre, Majestic Theatre, Comedy Club and Orpheum Theatre. Late night contests and slams will move to Genna's, Café Montmartre and Adair's. The George L. Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus will host festival workshops. Five venues within the Overture Center will host the semi-finals, and finals will be held in Overture Hall.
NPS officials have changed the rules of the event in recent years, allowing only teams -- not individuals -- to compete in the national event. Each team represents a city, and team members are selected based on their ability to compete as individuals in their city. The top five competitors in each city final competition will make the NPS team.
Those teams are not yet chosen for this year's event and in fact events to choose city finalists are just getting under way. Milwaukee resident and local organizer Dasha Kelly notes that she would "encourage anyone interested to start going to local events, and to keep that poem in your back pocket just in case you get brave."
Kelly is excited about plans in the works to spice up daytime events during the contest. "We've spent a lot of time revamping the day events into a festival-like atmosphere, with team and individual events at various venues around Madison,' she says. These events are intended to allow both NPS team members and individual poets to showcase their abilities.
They will include workshops and panels on topics ranging from marketing to dealing with depression, publishing and "word therapy." Showcase performance events also present a myriad of themes, from a teen-specific slam to slams geared toward representing voices from the LGBT community, women and people of color.
The 2008 Lyrics on the Lake festival is being sponsored by Poetry Slam, Inc., American Family Insurance, the National Endowment for the Arts, Madison Gas and Electric and the Stillwaters Collective. Individuals and observers will be able to purchase tickets to the weeklong event, and organizers are currently running a contest for event passes. To enter, those who regularly attend spoken word events are asked to submit an email noting a "snap-worthy line" from a local spoken word performance. Organizers will randomly select a new winner each month from January through March.
Those interested in volunteering or requesting more information are encouraged to contact organizers, whose information can be found here.
"I can't wait to bring the big boys in and show them how we do it here in Wisconsin," Kelly declares. "Spoken word events are, in my opinion, the most diverse event in the city. Everybody, from every social, economic and cultural background, comes out for these kinds of events. I can't wait to showcase our state and I really encourage people to get involved."