The first time I ever performed a poem in public for an audience was at the 2008 All-Cape Teen Poetry Slam held at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. I ended up winning 2nd place that night and earned my way to the Grand Slam a few weeks later. It has been almost 3 years to the day that I performed poetry for the first time so it was only fitting to return to the Cultural Center to perform once again at the Monthly Poet’s Corner Open Mic.
This week was the May edition of the Poet’s Corner Open Mic and Feature at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod run by Barry Hellman and Joe Gouveia. Both Joe and Barry are prominent poets on the Cape. Coincidentally, Joe judged the Teen Poetry Slam that I competed in back in 2008. He was also the Cantab Champion back in the 90’s. Cantab Lounge in Central Square in Cambridge, MA holds an open mic and slam every Wednesday and is known as the center of the spoken word scene in Boston. Joe has also competed at the National Poetry Slam and earned the title of Cape Cod Slam Champion once upon a time. Barry has been writing poetry for decades, has been published numerous times and has featured at several venues around the Cape. Together they co-host the Monthly Poet’s Corner that I performed at!
A small audience gathered on Thursday night for the Poet’s Corner. I was one of only four people under the age of 50 in attendance making it painfully apparent that I am now on Cape Cod and not Boston. Once the open mic session started I began to realize that age was not the only difference between me and the others in the room. None of them were spoken word poets. Right now might not be the best time to address the confusion and misconceptions surrounding terms such as poetry, spoken word, poetry slam, etc. But essentially, spoken word poetry is written to be heard first and foremost while “page poetry” or the traditional poetry that people typically grow up reading, is meant to be read. As I mentioned there’s so much more I could say on the topic but for now, just imagine the difference between Aerosmith and Beethoven. That may give you an idea of how different my spoken word performance was from the other poets that night. I did feel a little bit awkward getting up there after the 6 people before me stood at a podium with paper and read traditional lines in a monotone voice. Even recognizing the generation gap was intimidating as I wasn’t too sure how the elderly population of Cape Cod would receive my non-traditional poems.
Ultimately, my performances went very well! Despite the clash of poetic style, they ended up loving my poems! I received plenty of compliments afterwards and even had the chance to talk to Joe Gouveia about upcoming shows and performance opportunities. The two featured poets, Patric Pepper and Mary Ann Larkin (pictured to the left) also enjoyed my poems, but it was a bit ironic when Mary Ann told me, “You really should be on the stage.” By “on the stage” she meant doing theater and acting. Ironically, being denied a spot in my high school’s play in 2007 is what lead to me discovering and pursuing spoken word and eventually entering the Teen Poetry Slam in 2008. And I’ve never looked back since! I do like being on a stage, but I don’t think I was meant for theater…I think I have to much to say!
Here’s a link to Barry Hellman’s website: Barry Hellman's Poetry Page! He has a little blurb on this month’s Poet’s Corner with information on Mary Ann and Patric as well as a little message about myself and Lyric, another young poet who read that night. He wrote “And A Great Big Bravo to Lyric Benson and Steph Braman two exciting young poets visiting and performing at the Poets' Corner Open Mic for the first time. Sensational!”
My mom videoed my performances that night. I read Have Me Honest and A Better Story again. I’m really ready to put those two to rest for a bit as I’ve performed both of them about 3 times each now. Hopefully I’ll be able to write something new by the time I go to another open mic in a few weeks! Check out the videos below if you’d like!