To say that the August 31 Poets in the City spoken word super show at Ted Mann Concert Hall will be the “final word” is like a group of wordsmiths calling themselves “The Last Poets.”
Just as there have been many poets to follow the legendary 1970’s performance troupe, there will continue to be many poetic words spoken after this historic concert theater event. However, no spoken word show may ever again have the star power present at this weekend’s event.
The Poets in the City show will be held Friday, August 31, 8 pm, at Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 4th St. S. in Minneapolis. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door, and $50 VIP. The show is recommended for ages 14 and up. For ticket information, call 612-462-4825 or go to www.myspace.com/poetsofthecity.
“This is really unprecedented. We have nine of the best spoken word artists in the U.S. performing on one stage. Even in slam competition finals this does not happen because poets knock each other out in earlier rounds,” says event co-producer Frank Sentwali of Edu-Poetic Enterbrainment. “The only thing that comes close is Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Broadway and touring cast, but last I checked they did not have one National Poetry Slam Champion in the line-up.” Sentwali cracks a smile and adds, “We have three.”
Indeed, this show does feature 2007 National Poetry Slam (NPS) champion Queen Sheba, as well as former champions Sekou tha Misfit and Sonya Renee. They will be joined by two-time Canadian Slam Champion and World Poetry Festival champion Will Da Real 1, as well as national semi-finalists Dan Vaughn and Christa Bell. This “super show” line-up is completed by Taalam Acey, perhaps the most well-known name on the performance poetry circuit, and Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry performer and Tony Award winner Georgia Me.
“Although Def Poetry has done a lot to adjust people’s perception of poetry, there is still this stigma attached to it. Unless you have experienced a spoken-word concert, you just can’t imagine it, and you can’t explain it,” Sentwali says. “This is a critically acclaimed theater art,” he explains, “Def Poetry sold out an entire season on Broadway, the biggest theater stage in the country. They were awarded theater’s highest honor: a Tony Award. They sold out in the Twin Cities and across the country, and they did not have names this big in the business…”
If nothing else, Sentwali’s conviction and belief in this event is admirable. During an hour-plus interview he went on about the value of spoken word as a form of artistic expression and its impact on community, youth, and hip hop culture. Ultimately though, he realizes it is not his passion for the spoken word that will determine the event’s success.
“This is an opportunity for the Twin Cities to be on the leading edge of an exploding genre,” Sentwali asserts. “These top-notch artists are going to go back to their respective cities with one opinion or the other about spoken word in Minnesota. What they have to say about our state will ultimately determine how many other quality artists want to come here and rock the house. It may even help to determine if the National Poetry Slam competition is held here in 2010.”