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To Be Heard and to Listen: Rogue Poetry Slam

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Slam Master Alex Brehmer performing
Photo Submitted by Alex Brehmer

Rogue Poetry Slam has been taking over Black Sheep Restaurant & Pub in Ashland the third Tuesday of every month since 2013. The scene often depicts an audience silently and attentively listening to an original poem recited by a single person. 

Rogue Poetry Slam was founded by T-Poe Varnado. According to current Slam Master Alex Brehmer, “It was born out of need,” she says, adding there weren’t any slam poetry events outside of Portland and Eugene at the time, yet there were several poets in the Rogue Valley. 

A five dollar cover charge is split up three ways for the top three poets of the evening. Sign ups take place thirty minutes before the first person is to perform. “Poetry events are valuable because of their inherent intimacy,” says Brehmer. “The competition aspect is what pulls poets out of their comfort zone, but it’s not the money that matters. Its the sharing of art, and the existence of a space in which it is safe to do so, that makes the slam worthwhile.”

Becoming Slam Master was something Brehmer wasn’t expecting, but accepted graciously. “In truth, the honor was bestowed upon me because I was a regular attendee (and had been for three years), was well versed in the process, and all but cried when I got the offer.” Brehmer began writing poetry at 16. Slam Poetry brought her out of her comfort zone and challenged her to write outside of the classroom. “It was totally terrifying––and I absolutely loved it. I’ve been writing and performing poetry ever since!”

She says it takes strength to participate in a poetry slam. Brehmer hopes those who participate feel both relief and pride. “Pride, in that they had the guts to perform in front of a bunch of people, and relief in that they survived doing so.” She also hopes those who simply attend the event feel connected to those participating. She adds, “Poetry is a fantastic way to build empathy for our neighbors and to recognize the beauty within our own lives.” 

Rogue Poetry Slam
8 pm, Tuesday, August 20
Black Sheep Restaurant and Pub, 51 N. Main Street, Ashland


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