Poetry at a topless club?
That's a question local residents Cheryl Lester and Jim McCrary hope a lot of people will be asking during the next few months.
Lester, an assistant professor of English at Kansas University, and McCrary, a poet who teaches at the Lawrence Arts Center, have organized "poetry slams" at the Flamingo Club, a Lawrence night club at 501 N. Ninth, which is known as "The Bird."
Beginning Monday, poets will have a chance to share their work in a setting that Lester and McCrary hopes will bring the art form "down off the Hill."
Popular in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and other large cities, poetry slams, Lester explained, are sort of like a "battle of the bands" competition for verse.
"IT'S SORT of a round," Lester said. "Poets read their own work in this competitive situation."
"It's a friendly competition. It's not a seriously competitive thing," McCrary added.
The first poetry slam, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, will feature poets Judy Roitman, Sharon Eiker and Wayne Propst, who will be judged by members of the audience.
Smiling, Lester explained that "anyone can end up being a judge."
There will be three sets of three judges, one set for each round of poetry. The poets will be judged after each round.
Lester hopes that holding the slams at the Flamingo, without topless dancers who normally perform at the club, will "give people a totally different perspective of what poetry is about."
"WE'RE BRINGING together things that seem irreconcilable," Lester said.
McCrary said audience participation at slams is of utmost importance. Pressuring judges is common and acceptable, McCrary said.
In addition to the works of the featured poets, Monday's slam also will feature performance artist Tony Allard as master of ceremonies and a "performance piece" by Brian Anderson. The evening will end with a 30-minute open-mic session in which anyone will be able to share their poetry. McCrary and Lester said they hope the open-mic sessions will generate poets for future slams.
Slams have been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Mondays bimonthly through December. The "Grand Slam," featuring the winners of each slam, will be Dec. 23. Barring any problems, Lester said all of the slams will be at the Flamingo.
Cash prizes will be awarded to the winning bard at each slam, which also will feature raffles with "strange and creative prizes."