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04-27-05 A slammin’ good time

By Janie Southard

  NEW BREMEN -- Poem follows poem; according to plan; the place was packed for the Poetry Slam.">
  A poetry what? Slam?
  That's a judged competition for poets where they read their work or someone else's before an audience. On display are the words, of course, but also the showmanship of the reader/poet.
  Oh yeah, it's a big city kind of thing; unless, of course, it's in New Bremen when it is a small town kind of thing that draws a big crowd. No kidding. There were more than 50 people at the Tuesday evening slam at New Bremen Coffee Co and Books.
  Old, young, tall, short -- they arrive early and stay late sipping fancy coffee and enjoying the endeavors of about 20 local poets who take center stage to read poems.  Shelly Finke, an English teacher and one of the coffee/book shop owners, says she first learned of slams from a "60 Minutes" broadcast several years ago.
  "When I tell my kids (Coldwater students) we're going to do a unit on poetry, they immediately begin to groan. You can count on it. But most people have that reaction to poetry. So I thought I'd give the slams a try and see what happens," she says, as she flips various switches on the whirring machines at the book store's coffee bar filling cups with froth.
  Frothy coffee drinks a'steamin; another slam's goin' down in Bremen.
  Finke credits language arts teachers for the slam's turnout of 50-plus people, more than half are students there to perform or to applaud.
  Perched on a tall chair sipping java, Marion Local's seventh-grade English teacher Karla Huwer is a happy sight for a dozen or more kids bursting through the door.
  "They can get extra credit," Huwer says, by way of explanation for the flock of young teens descending on the coffee shop armed with various robes, wigs, big hats, etc. -- all poetry props.
  But, just a month before this extra credit event, came the Poetry Brackets, a take-off on the much hyped March Madness where college basketball teams take over the television for a straight 734 hours.
  "This was our second year and they really got into it, even the boys. They like the competition aspect and are excited just to cheer each other on," Huwer says, adding the pizza party at the end of the Final Four doesn't hurt the enthusiasm.
  Rob Wiest, a tall drink of water from New Knoxville, says he just recently took up a poet's life. His first poem for the slam is based on the expression "if you like it so much, why don't you marry it?" In Wiest's case, his great love is for the chocolate soft drink, Yoo-hoo, and his clever poem describes the marriage of a boy and his drink.
  While that little ditty has the crowd laughing out loud, other poets write of struggle and loss, birth and rebirth and other serious topics. But, the audience is equally appreciative of the sapphire oceans, tumbling concrete and gaping maws of blackness.
  On the other hand, Karla Huwer's baby, 4-month-old Elizabeth, is fairly unimpressed with the word art around her and has decided on a quick snooze.
  Shhhh now, poets, don't make a peep.
  Elizabeth Huwer is fast asleep.


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