Meta Sarmiento, a Filipino poet and rapper from Guam who currently lives in Denver, will host a poetry slam on Jan. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at The Temporary in Basalt, and teach a spoken word poetry workshop on Jan. 20 at 10:30 a.m. at Basalt Regional Library. Meta is a National Poetry Slam semifinalist, a TEDx speaker and winner of Spoken Word for the World 2015.
Read on to find out more about slam poetry and Meta (including the origin of his cool first name):
What makes slam poetry unique?
It’s important to note that not all spoken word poetry is slam poetry. Poetry becomes “slam poetry” when written with the intent of competing in an actual slam. This intent to compete is what makes the kind of poetry unique. The competitive element pushes writers to bring their best work and one of the main goals is to engage the audience. Slams are often call-and-response, meaning audience members are free to express how they feel about a poem during the performance. If an audience loves a piece, they can clap or snap or oooh and ahhhh. If they’re not liking a poem, they can even boooo and pssshhh! a poem. Of course, the most definitive quality of a slam is the fact that there are judges giving poems scores. Some the most successful poets in slams have known to be brave, controversial, but above all, experts at drawing connections with their audience.
How did you get hooked on slam poetry?
In my junior year of high school, my English teacher took me to a spoken word poetry presentation. I had no idea that poetry could be written in that form! A group of amazing spoken word poets presented their work and invited all of us down to a poetry slam. I checked out the slam, decided to try it out and ended up doing really well against adults. That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue the art more seriously.
Any advice for people who’ll be participating in their first poetry slam on Jan. 19?
Simply be yourself and present your work in the best way you know. Slams can get so intense because of the competitive element. The best slams I’ve experienced have been between poets who care less about winning and more about performing to the best of their ability. Don’t stress about scoring high. Perform with no apologies. Speak your truth, believe in your words and have fun celebrating your worth. Remember, at the end of the day, a slam is just another game we play, a gimmick to fill seats up so that we can share and build upon our important stories.
How can slam poetry impact the writing of people who are working on novels or other long-form pieces?
Attend a slam and see how masterfully poets can engage an audience. I think paying attention to the craft will inform novelists how to navigate dialogue and might even influence how narrations are pieced together. Poets on stage have only a few minutes to compel an audience. I think the long-form can learn a thing or two about the economy of language from poets; how poets are able to grab onto your heart strings in mere lines and make you feel, deeply, in ways some books in their entirety fail to do.
What can people who attend your Jan. 20 workshop expect?
To have open, honest conversations about craft and how we situate ourselves within it. I know a lot of writers who believe detaching from the work is essential to writing good work, death to the author, so to speak. But this won’t be that. I believe delving into ourselves is the only way to figure out what makes a poem completely ours. I’m interested in discussing personal nuances and how manifesting them within the work gives us tangible ownership of our writing. Might sound cliche, but expect to tell your story, and then to tell it again in a way that only you as the poet could.
How did you come to be known as Meta?
I did a poetry performance a few years ago and after I got off stage, a drunk guy came up to me and said, “Yo dude, you got the most vivid metaforce.” I had a few drinks too so I wasn’t sure if I was just hearing him wrong! It turns out, he was trying to say “metaphors” but was slurring so bad it kept sounding like “meta-force.” I thought, “Dang that’s a cool name” and ran with it for a while. As I got older, I matured in character, in my work, and decided I needed a name that reflected that growth. I shortened Metaforce to Meta, felt like the word itself meant so much more not just in English, but in other languages as well. Everyone most commonly knows me now as Meta. I may have dropped the “force” but make no mistake, “I’m one with the force and the force is with me!”
Categorised in: Young Writers
This post was written by Elizabeth Nix