The spoken word was highlighted on Friday through the Lubeznik Center for the Arts’ annual Poetry Slam, which featured 11 individuals showing off their poetry skills at the microphone before a crowd of about 50 onlookers taking part in the Center’s monthly “First Friday” event.
Each poet had three minutes to deliver an original piece, with the topics varying from the comedic to the profound. A team of five judging groups then rated each performance on a scale of 1-10, with five advancing to the second round and three being proclaimed winners after their second piece.
Celina Perez, a first-time participant from Beverly Shores, had three pieces prepared for Friday night’s tourney-style poetry event. Her favorite piece, which she titles “Skeletons,” was centered around the theme of “letting go of a recent ex and moving on in a positive way.”
“I’m a little anxious, but overall more excited,” Perez said prior to the beginning of the show. “I came to the show two years ago and thought it was pretty interesting, so I decided to finally get the courage to perform this year.”
J.W. Basilo, a writer/performer/humorist, served as the host for the evening, keeping things entertaining between performances. Basilo, whose work has appeared on NPR, in the Chicago Tribune, numerous literary journals and hundreds of theaters, received a PushCart nomination for his poem “Anointing the Hand” in 2010.
“I’m going to be making jokes all night, so you better get used to it,” Basilo told the crowd prior to the start of the first round.
“He always keeps things humorous and fun,” said Janet Bloch, education director for the Lubeznik Center and organizer of Friday night’s event.
Bloch said performers were from a variety of walks of life, including a 14-year-old girl and an 80-year-old man.
“A few years ago, we wanted to come up with a few more culturally oriented First Friday events and try different things every month,” Bloch said. “This event in particular always keeps people stimulated and we love the whole contingency that comes here and just loves poetry.”