The spoken-word scene has always struck me as somewhat ephemeral; if you miss the moment, it’s entirely gone — it’s not as though you can go check out the book after the reading. Of course, the Internet remedies all that, and the Minnesota Microphone blog does a swell job of pulling the spoken-word community together in one place. Visit to get to know the scene’s key and rising players, find out about upcoming events, and actually see some of the best work in action, thanks to video links.
Site founder and slam poet Cole Sarar came to the performance scene fairly recently. “It was a bit of a bad habit I picked up in the past year, as a result of being a writer who wanted to conquer her stage fright. I can quit any time I want to, I swear,” she says. “In all seriousness, it wasn’t ever my intent to become a spoken-word artist, but it makes sense. I love sharing ideas, I love language, and it’s helping me both examine my writing in new ways, and also to actually reach an audience with my writing.”
The fact that this newcomer quickly became not just the quiet chronicler of the scene, but a luminary — performing as Inky, she’s the current Geek Slam champion and this spring represented Minneapolis at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Detroit — proves that this community is far from insular. In part due to Sarar’s organizing efforts, performance poetry is a steadily growing facet of the Twin Cities arts community.
“There are big youth and college events, and new people coming out all the time,” she says, although she doesn’t see slam poetry going mainstream anytime soon. “I’ve seen a couple of advertisements that use spoken word, but there’s not a whole lot of risk of it becoming commercialized. But it is accessible, accepted and enjoyed. I don’t get so many confused, mocking, or disbelieving responses when I tell people I’m a slam poet. Teachers are contacting poets and the Minnesota Spoken Word Association, to get performers to do workshops with kids. More people know about spoken word, I think.”
The Microphone blog functions as a primer for newcomers and as a central hub for established performers. Sarar frequently opens a conversation or a challenge to the community, and a current series, MN Speaks, invites poets to stand up and introduce themselves through a defining piece. Wonder Dave’s poem “7,000” is featured right now, a powerful response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim that there are no homosexuals in Iran. Only the text of the poem is online; imagine it read with feeling and fire, and that’s the essence of spoken word.
“I’m sure it’ll only become more known, accepted, and understood over time, but really? Spoken word is an incredibly old art form,” says Sarar. “We’ve been reading to our kids, standing on street corners preaching, telling big-fish stories to anyone who will listen for as long as we’ve had kids and street corners and fish. It’s just a matter of enjoying its current incarnations, finding out about the people who are elevating it to newest forms.”