By Laura Coburn
A poetry slam is unlike any other performance. The atmosphere, the personal words of the poets, and the lack of boundaries makes for not just a show, but also a unique experience.
Lucky for all of us, Word Around Town Poetry Tour will be hosting a whole week chalk full of poetry and all ages are welcome to attend. For eight years now, the event has strived to introduce poets to new venues and to expose audiences to new poets.
“We’re trying to show off what the city has to offer in the literary scene,” Lupe Mendez, a poet, educator and WAT?! event organizer says.
Every night, from Aug. 4 - Aug. 10, venues across Houston will host 19 of Houston’s top poets, including those recognized nationally and internationally. Prize-winning slam poets, poets earning their MFAs and PHDs, musicians, as well as professors and students will take the stage.
“It’s that hustle, that drive to want to put your work out there,” Mendez explains. “Those are the kind of things we look for. And the actual work is integral to the identity of what it means to be a poet here in Houston.”
Some of the poets will have feature performances throughout the week. In prior years the event organizers invited people from out of town to keep the show “fresh.” However, with new Houston poets participating every year, Mendez says their team decided they had to come up with a way to honor the dedicated poets that stuck with the event for at least three years. “It’s like a nice way to honor their time because the beauty of the entire tour is that all of it is free…None of the poets get paid and none of the organizers get paid.” Featured artists include Outspoken Bean, Kathy Fay, Jasminne Mendez, Joe B, Marcell Murphy, Dee!Colonize, and Zelene Suchilt. “They are Hip-Hop Artists, Lyricists, Teachers, Arts Organizers and Visionaries Poets,” according to the WAT?! website.
No matter if they are featured long-time poets or if it’s their first year with the tour, they all will bring their A-game, Mendez emphasizes. Some of the poets will compose completely new work for the tour, while others will feature a culmination of their ongoing work. Others will try out pieces they’ve never shown anybody—some bold, some risky. “They craft and they craft, and they work and they work, and they come up with the pieces,” Mendez says. “What we get in the tour is their best pieces.”
Thanks to the WAT?! Tour, open mic nights and other poetry events, the Houston poetry scene is becoming one of the largest in the country, according to Mendez. “I think over the years, it’s been blowing up in quite an astounding way, especially now that Mayor Parker established the Poet Laureate for the city” Mendez says. “It’s really hard to find a city (like Houston) that has a poetry reading or poetry event every single night of the week.”
Mendez underscores that the tour is the only poetry show of its kind. The tour reflects the diversity of Houston, featuring poets of all ages with different ethnic backgrounds, writing backgrounds and levels of poetry experience.
“There is something for every kind of person that attends,” Mendez assures. “If you’re a novice and you’ve never gone to a poetry reading, you’ll get a kick out of it because nobody sounds like anybody else. Everybody has got a completely different take on what they’re writing about.”
This year’s series is projected to be the best and biggest one yet! The shows start at 8 p.m. sharp and are open to the public. So, don’t miss out on experiencing Houston’s vibrant poetry scene and a few nights of free fun. No tickets needed, just show up!
To find out more and discover the participating artists and venues, check out the Word Around Town website