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On Friday, April 29, poets competed at the Sierra Nevada College Annual Poetry Slam for artistic bragging rights and a grand prize of $300. The event was hosted by Lain Watson, a poet and second grade teacher from Reno. Watson was the slam champion at last year’s event.
“I won third place five years ago. Then, it took me four years to come back. When I did, I won. Now I’m hosting,” Watson said. “I want to thank June Saraceno for allowing me to host and be in this positive space to present poetry and speak poetry.”
Poetry Slams are performance based poetry competitions that were started in Chicago in the 1980’s. Poet Marc Smith began these events as a modern, raw alternative to the stuffy poetry readings that were prevalent at the time. Decades later, Smith’s legacy is being upheld at Sierra Nevada College.
Watson warmed up the crowd with a poetic performance that showcased his hip hop influence. Inspired by MC Idea and Def Poetry Jams, Watson’s poetic style is a marriage of rap and spoken word poetry.
“I used to think I was a rapper,” Watson said.
However, once Watson was introduced to spoken word poetry, there was no going back. He has been performing at poetry slams for years now.
“I get nervous still, and I’ve been doing this for a while,” Watson said.
Seven poets competed for the title of slam champion at this event. The competitors, SNC students Tufon Kalbassi, Madison Johnson, Aimee Lowenstern, Kevin Kleeb, Marco Maynard, Anthony DeCole, and SNC alumni Kyle Garon, stepped up to the mic and dropped poetic bombs on the rapt audience.
The competition heated up when poets Kalbassi, Lowenstern, Garon, Maynard, and Kleeb advanced to the finals. After a powerful round of spoken word poetry, the winners were chosen. SNC student Aimee
Lowenstern won first place for her spectacular performance. When her victory was announced, the crowd roared and begged for an encore. Marc Maynard won second place and Kevin Kleeb took third at this year’s SNC poetry slam.
“I had a great time,” Watson said. “A big congratulations to Tahoe Slam Champ Aimee Lowenstern, she brought the house down and absolutely killed it.”