Grinding coffee and steaming milk accompany the sounds of snaps, applause and a single voice that fills the Bean Cycle during its monthly poetry slam. A community of art and appreciation is at the core of poetry slams, which are growing in popularity around the city.
Poetry slams are hosted the first Friday of every month at the Bean Cycle coffee shop and bookstore, and the last Sunday of the month at music venue, restaurant and bar Avogadro’s Number.
“(Poets) can make their everyday lives and situations something holy that we can all view through a lens together and share that moment, and it’s beautiful,” said Larry Holgerson, the organizer of the Bean Cycle’s poetry slams.
At both, anyone with the courage to read their work can participate, and poets are given a score out of 10 by five judges randomly selected from the audience. The highest and the lowest scores from the judges are dropped, and the poets are given a score out of 30. There are three rounds, and each round the group is divided in half with the highest scoring poets in the group moving on to the next round. At the end of the night, the winning poet walks away with a jar full of donations collected throughout the evening.
“The competition aspect of it not really that big of a player in the whole game. It’s there because it’s fun to have a winner, but I think that slam poetry is there for people to have a voice, not just compete against one another,” said Andrew Walker, senior English education major and co-creator of the Avogadro’s slam.
The Bean Cycle Poetry Slam, orchestrated by Holgerson, started a few years prior to his involvement in 2006. It was started by local college students, but faded away after their graduation. Since 2006, the slam has continued to grow and become a popular monthly event in the town.
Walker and recent CSU graduate Chris Vanjonack started the Slamogadro Poetry Slam in April 2014 as a way to provide a second place to celebrate spoken word in the growing poetry slam community.
“We got the sense that there was a little bit more of a need for that kind of space in this town, so we decided to start a poetry slam of our own,” Vanjonack said.
Their poetry slam is distinguished by bringing in featured poets on a regular basis as well as having their own unique vibe.
“Avo’s has this really awesome performance space with a really good sound and a buzzing vibe that we were excited about,” Vanjonack said.
Vanjonack and Walker discovered poetry in their late teen years at the Mercury Cafe in Denver, which holds a weekly Sunday night slams. Both Vanjonack and Walker used poetry to overcome their shyness and find a voice.
“It’s the most vindicating thing in the world to have a group full of strangers applaud you for having the tenacity to speak your voice,” Vanjonack said.
Holgerson found equally powerful experiences through the Friday nights at the Bean Cycle.
“We can really cook up a fire in here and get people excited about listening to other people’s performance,” Holgerson said.