The local performance poet will help you prepare to compete in CAPA's upcoming “Hamilton”-themed poetry slam.

The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA) and The Columbus Foundation are co-sponsoring a poetry slam competition for both experienced and amateur poets, Jan. 23 at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center. Two winners will be selected, one in the youth category and one in the adult category. Each will be awarded two tickets to the Columbus engagement of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

No experience is required to enter, but competitors must participate in at least one of four free performance poetry workshops led by teaching artists and poets Barbara Fant and William Evans. Details and registration information are available at capa.com.

Fant, who is well known in the Columbus poetry community and was one of Columbus Alive’s 2017 “People to Watch,” is the author of one poetry collection and two chapbooks. We caught up with her recently by phone. 

For someone new to this, what is the difference between spoken word, also known as performance poetry, and other poetry? 

When we speak about spoken word, it’s really about making the poem come to life in a new way and being able to present it. So you’re putting voice behind the work and making it come alive onstage.

I like to say that I write my poems, and I pay attention to what it’s going to look like it on the page. But for a performance poem, my editing might change because of my breathing pattern or however I want to make it come alive on stage. Still, if it’s a good, solid poem, it should be able to live on the stage and on the page.

What will you cover in the two-hour workshops?

We’re going to break up the workshop between the writing aspect and the performance aspect of it. In the writing part, we’ll start off basic for people who have never written a poem before. We’ll talk about the definition of a poem, introduce them to some poetic tools like metaphor, simile, alliteration, assonance, and teach them how to actually build a poem.

We’ll also talk about the themes that we’re going to have people write about for the competition. They have to be themes that emerge from “Hamilton,” which I have not seen. It’s not something that is easy to see, which makes this competition that much more appetizing! But the themes, which include overcoming obstacles and being an agent of positive change, are really broad and I think that people can find themselves and insert themselves into that story in any way that they see fit. There’s an opportunity for anybody to be a part of it, and I think that’s exciting.

For the performance aspect, we’ll probably have people stand at a mic before the rest of the class and read their poem. In my own personal performance practice, I often perform in front of a mirror just so that I know what my hands and my body are actually doing. A lot of times when we’re onstage, we think our bodies are doing one thing and we’re really doing something else.

We’ll also work on pacing and projection. We’ll work through all those things for people.

Do you have any advice for competitors who are new to writing or performing poetry?

To not be afraid, but to come as you are, and to know that your voice and your story matters. Your voice is important. Your voice is necessary. The themes are broad enough to find your own story in the midst of that. And so I hope that people feel comfortable enough to come and share their own story. Your voice matters, and this is just a tool to get it out there.

What should the audience expect on Jan. 23, especially those who have never attended a poetry slam?

Just know that you’re going to be invited into a space that’s going to be exciting, that’s going to be elevated, high energy, and we’re going to bring some stories to life onstage. Just come and be yourself. Be an active participant. Be loud when we get loud, and be quiet when you need to be quiet. You don’t have to know anything about poetry, about slams, or about “Hamilton.” Just come.

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