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Poets ready to duke it out in All Oregon Slam.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

EVENT PREVIEW All Oregon Slam With: Eugene Slam Team, Corvallis Slam Team, Bend Slam Team and Black Poets Society When: 8 p.m. Saturday Where: World Cafe, 449 Blair Blvd. How Much: $5, all ages Also: Haiku Showdown with an encore performance by Saturday night's poetry slam winner at 9 p.m. Sunday at Sam Bond's Garage, 407 Blair Blvd.; The cover is $3 to $5 on a sliding scale

It will be a battle for poetic supremacy Saturday night as the Eugene Slam Team squares off against word warriors from Corvallis and Bend in an event being billed as the All Oregon Slam. Slams are competitive poetry events that stress the art of performance (also known as spoken word ) over well-crafted stanzas.

"It's just a way to get people to come out and get excited about poetry," said organizer Jorah La Fleur.

In years past, the Eugene Slam Team would be competing at the National Poetry Slam right about now - that event runs through Saturday in Austin, Texas - but the team missed a required meeting and was ruled ineligible. When members of the team learned that Corvallis and Bend would also not be attending, they started organizing this weekend's event.

"Part of it is just acknowledging all of these Oregon teams," La Fleur said. "We thought, well, let's just kind of celebrate Oregon."

Although still relatively young, the performance poetry scene in Eugene continues to grow. Last year the Eugene Slam Team had its highest showing ever, finishing in the top 25 at nationals. The qualifying rounds for this year's Eugene team drew more than 80 poets and attracted a wide-ranging all-ages crowd.

Compared to other Oregon cities, Eugene is well represented as far as performance poetry is concerned, La Fleur says. Corvallis also boasts a well-established poetry scene but Portland is currently without a competitive team. Bend has one of the youngest emerging communities of spoken word artists.

"One thing that is common throughout the Northwest scene is the (encouragement)," La Fleur said. "It's not vicious competition, it's very supportive."

La Fleur didn't care to handicap Saturday's event. She called the competition a dead heat. Following an open-mic poetry session, individual slam poets will go head to head in a four-round bout. Along with the Eugene, Corvallis and Bend squads, another team from Corvallis, the Black Poets Society, will also be competing.

Judges randomly selected from the audience will score the battles and select the winning poets. Powerful performances and strong writing are generally weighed equally and no subjects are considered off-limits. After the individual scores from all the rounds are tabulated, a team champion will be crowned.

The Eugene Slam Team spans a wide range of ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Dakota Belle Witt, 21, is the group's youngest member and one of the squad's most vibrant performers. A theater and dance major at the University of Oregon, she discovered spoken word poetry while growing up in Berkeley, Calif. Veteran team member Samuel Rutledge brings experience and a political bent to his work, and Barbara Handley, a mother of two from Nevada, has won praise for her powerful poems.

Marietta Bonaventure, a well-known poetry organizer, rounds out the team. Formerly the coach of the Eugene Slam Team, Bonaventure calls herself a "poetry activist" who believes "words will save the world."

Saturday's slam is the final event of the 2005-06 Eugene Slam Team season. A Haiku Showdown on Sunday offers the chance to explore poetry in a more compact form. Poets are advised to come with 10 to 20 written haiku (three-line poems with five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second and five syllables in the third) and be prepared to write haiku on the spot.

The Haiku Showdown is scheduled to include an encore performance by the winner of Saturday's slam.
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 11, 2006
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