Should Poetry Slam Competitions Be Televised? by Shawn Hudson [Poetic Thoughts #5]

Poetry slams are powerful events to attend and be a part of if you’re into hearing people wax poetic in an aggressive fashion. You might even witness the next Kai Davis or Malcolm London in the making right in front of you without even realizing it. Imagine if everyone around the world could witness live poetry slam competitions on television in real time. Imagine if the amount of people that aren’t aware of such great poetic wizards were to suddenly were able to witness the greatness unfold in front of them like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. I would personally like to see a network such as Vice Land, which has a history of taking risks by showing programming that educates, entertains and uplifts its viewers, take a chance on televising poetry slam competitions.

As a poet myself, I realize the power that poetry has – it’s something that’s unique, profound to the human soul. I was exposed to a great poet by the name of Kai Davis back when I attended Monroe College in 2013. I was a part of the “Poetry Club” which was ran by Alfonso Colasuonno, who played a YouTube clip of Kai Davis’ poem “Fuck I look like” which is a classic to this day. After being shown that clip I was forever a fan of Ms. Davis’s work and I learned that you can curse in poetry, which I didn’t know at the time. The point is I took pride in being a poet after being exposed to so many different styles and types of content, which helped me mold and create my own style.

The belief that there’s an extreme lack of interest in poetry, particularly in watching a poetry slam, is what I believe is the cause for poetry slam competitions not being televised. When they are televised, they’re treated unfairly. HBO treated the iconic open mic series Def Poetry Jam like a cheap hooker by cancelling it, then rebranding it to “Brave New Voices” for a brief moment only to cancel it completely. I can understand why networks are hesitant to deal with poetry, especially poetry with explicit and raw language, which poets such as me and others partake in using when crafting our masterpieces. There is also another logical explanation for these poetry competitions not being televised and that could be that poets and poetry organizations fear that the product will be watered-down for mainstream consumption. The fear of advertisers running to the nearest exit once a couple of poets question and critique the establishment is an example of what I believe many networks fear the most. In closing, I want everyone to see poetry slam competitions so that more of our youth can participate in poetry and take it to another level for generations to come.

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