Keeping Slam Alive During COVID-19

Sunday evening, I’m rocking my fuzzy concha slippers, sweats, and a messy bun any bird would be down to nest in. You know, just here, practicing the art of  social distancing with the utmost class during the era of COVID-19.

The microwave rings and Top Ramen is set for dinner. I take a pair of chopsticks and dine on noodles from a foam cup. I log into Instagram and  tune into @prettysimplekat’s page for an event named Sunday Screen Time Slam, a virtual poetry slam facilitated by poet Kat Magil.

I think to myself, slam on Instagram? But how?

I witness seven poets spit 3minute poems, one round. Viewers are shit talking, cheering
and sending heart emojis in the form of applause. Kat effortlessly plays the role of host, DJ, and score keeper, and I’m amazed by her energy! With over sixty viewers actively watching slam from their smart phones and laptops, we were able to connect and stay community. It’s now with great pleasure to offer you the responses by Kat Magil and her motivation behind making slam a virtual experience for all to enjoy.

SpitJournal: What inspired you to facilitate a slam on Instagram during COVID-19 ?

Kat: While chaos is happening so should the call for community to leap into action. I was getting shows cancelled left and right as all of my friends who are poets were, but bills were still coming in. The stress of figuring out how to financial sustain our well-being is at the forefront of every waking day and as I scrolled through my feeds I noticed that folks were beginning to get discouraged. COVID-19 did not change my core values of remaining rooted in love and fighting for joy in the midst of calamity. I wanted to help. I wanted folks to have a space that was familiar among so much unknown. I wanted to bring joy, even if it was delivered from the confines of my own kitchen, lol. As a poet who had slammed for 6 years on teams from Hollywood (DPL) to San Diego I wanted to honor the community that was already built and a slam had not yet existed that kept our rules, our vibrancy, our infrastructure, so I began trying to figure out what would keep a virtual slam true to us and help a poet eat in the process. I couldn’t help everyone at once but I could offer Screen Time Slam that would help at least one poet a week pay a bill, get groceries, or keep the lights on. Seven poets rock the “screen” with one poem, as I told the poets bring their “End-of-the-World” poem, and we all can love one another, be encouraging during this hard time, be seen and united with people from around the world! Whether the poet won or not it broke a feeling of isolation for everyone. We had poets haling from California, Texas and the Bahamas still building community online. For one poet, And1Dunna, it was his first time ever slamming!!!! Dope!  For our first Screen Time Slam Champ, Anita D, she received donations directly from her community to keep her going for another day. For me, I got to do what I love and stay rooted in what matters most, bringing love every Sunday at 7pm right from my kitchen. I get to do that again and again. At the Screen Time Slam, the first Instagram slam true to my poetry slam community, we all win!

SpitJournal: After the first Sunday Screen Time Slam what did you learn?

Kat: I learned that people are still hungry to share and build with one another, the same way I was. The support and donations that came in gave others a way to give back that didn’t make them feel like they had to choose between their own livelihood or someone else’s. Asking for one dollar or two dollars makes giving accessible to everyone. I also learned that competition still lives within us during hardship. Its a good feeling to be reminded that you have some fight left in you. As far as learning how to improve the slam, I will be continuing to learn every time I go live and someone can comment their best practices navigating social media. We are learning together. 

Spit Journal: How do you see the Sunday Screen Time Slam via technology embody (some if any) the magic/ healing/ joy/ community building, that we would normally witness at a regular slam?

Kat: I tweaked the language we normally hear at a slam to keep the audience engaged. Instead of “clap the poet to the stage”, I asked viewers to click their hearts to show love. Instead of “calling next poet to the stage” I said “next poet request to join”, Instead of having judges throw up their scores, I said “judges comment your scores”. All of these small adjustments gave simple directions of how we can bring OUR energy virtually into this new world. I watched poets still cracking jokes back stage or better put, “behind the screen” in the comments. I received tons of DMs of people who watched Screen Time Slam reminiscing over the old days, people I never got to meet in real life. The best moment for me was witnessing the poets who participated send love to one another after the slam was over in our group chat. Poets raved over each others work, reposted poems of one another, shared links to their products and so forth. As Treesje   Powers put it (a poet who slammed) “This is such a powerful reminder of the power of a pen and storytelling”. It was a reminder to us all of how we remain a community during social distancing. 

Spit Journal: Anything else you want to share with folks ? 

Kat: This only works if WE work. Every Sunday be sure to tune in to the Screen Time Slam on my live @prettysimplekat at 7pm. Donate at Paypal: Screentimeslam@gmail.com . To keep it fair in selecting poets who are competing, I throw up a post every Saturday that says “ITS SCREEN TIME” and the first seven poets to DM me are in! Let’s stay united during COVID-19. Love is a powerful thing. Let’s lead with it. IT’S SCREEN TIME! 

Please support Kat and the poets that are hitting Sunday Screen Time Slam. Also check out these other open mics happening via online!

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