Welcome to Slam Poetry 101 where the insanely talented poets from Verses and Flow school us on the history of the art as well as lessons on their place in it.

Today’s Teacher: Ed Mabrey

Q: What city would you describe as the birth place of Slam Poetry and why?

A: Chicago was the birthplace of poetry slam in terms of the competition. It was founded by Marc Smith. However the movement to be judged or for your poems to determine stage time, prizes, etc also happened in New York City years prior to that.

Q: Who is the poet or poem that changed your life?

A: Every poet I encounter and every poem I hear or read changes my life to some extent. However, I was raised in Dayton, Ohio and can recall learning about Paul Lawrence Dunbar. His work moved me before I could even fully comprehend what he was saying.

Q: Which era of poetry would you prefer to live in: Harlem Renaissance; 70’s Black Arts Movement or Post Neo Soul and why?

A: The 70’s. While the Harlem Renaissance had incredible thinkers, I feel the movement of the 70’s had incredible thinkers and doers. There were plenty of words but also a good deal of action.

Q: Tell us about the first time you performed on stage.

A: The first open mic poetry event I attended, I read a horrible poem I had written to get over a breakup. I read it in four parts, one part a week for four weeks. I am certain everyone in the building was glad when I finally got over it and myself

Q: Describe the most remarkable Slam poetry event you’ve ever attended?

A: The first National Poetry Slam I attended in either 1999 or 2000 was the most remarkable because it was my first. To see hundreds, thousands, of poets take over an area of a city (Seattle, WA) and fill it with such amazing art was mind blowing for me at the time. Everywhere you looked people were performing in venues, on the streets, in hotel lobbies, bars, coffee houses, everywhere. The presence of such literary talent gave me the feeling that anything was possible. That if you can dream it, then write it down, then share it, you can make it so.

Q: You’ve been tasked with writing your best poem ever, what album do you take with you for company?

A: Either John Coltrane’s Juno Se Mama or The Roots’ Phrenology. Both have helped me in the writing process countless times.