By Allison LeCain
On the first Friday of every month, The Bean Cycle, located at 144 N. College Ave., is packed with people. Every seat is filled with eager listeners waiting for the emcee of the Poetry Slam to step up to the microphone.
Larry Holgerson, better known in the poetry community as ‘Booger,’ struts up wearing his traditional tie-dye shirt and sparkling silver cowboy boots. It’s 8 o’clock and the Poetry Slam begins.
These poetry slams are not only a unique Fort Collins experience for budding poets and listeners alike, but are a contest which includes twelve performers, three rounds (with half of the poets being eliminated each round) and five judges. Anyone who wants to perform can sign up a half hour before the show starts, and any audience member can volunteer to be a judge. Each judge scores the poet out of ten possible points. In the end, there is one winner and the prize is the money from the tip jar that is passed around the room.
Holgerson has been running the poetry slam for five years with few rules, because having rules is not what poetry is about.
“The whole idea behind poetry slams is that it no longer belongs to the academies or professors,” Holgerson says. “It’s not about putting things in books to die on a shelf – it’s about keeping alive the actual writer’s passion and performance.”
He explains that poetry is about telling your truths and spitting out the poison of daily life. For Holgerson and many others, poetry is a mental and emotional release – there is no holding back.
Poetry Slam performer Joshua Jackson, a.k.a. JJ, has won twice, including his first time participating in June and again this November. He began writing poetry in the third grade and was first published in a children’s poetry book a year later.
Jackson says he finds inspiration from everything in his life, but his goal is to write poetry that others can relate to by entertaining them and evoking their emotions at the same time.
“I love bringing people together and feeding off their energy,” Jackson says. “That is a really powerful environment.”
The poetry slam at The Bean Cycle offers the perfect atmosphere for self-expression. It allows people to speak out about social issues or anything else they want in a place where everyone is just listening and not making comments. Holgerson has a theory that he calls the ‘zombie apocalypse’ – meaning that many people are in such a hurry to get where they’re going that they don’t stop and listen to others.
“It’s so easy nowadays to just do nothing,” Holgerson says. “I lot of people that seem like they are strong and powerful are hiding behind that powerful face. They just need to be heard. Sometimes there is power in being validated.”
Some of the poets, including Jackson, have undergone hardships in their life that they are able to work through and recover from through poetry.
“For me, it’s a necessity. Through all the stuff that I’ve been through, all the stuff I have taken in and had done to me, poetry is the only way I can let that out and express it. If I were to keep it in I would go crazy,” Jackson says. “So basically it’s my passion – it’s a survival mechanism.”
Before Jackson participated in poetry slams, he would share his poetry with his grandfather. His grandfather has passed away, but Jackson sometimes writes about him in his poems.
“I never had parents and my foster family abandoned me, so he was basically the only person that I had in my life to turn to,” Jackson said. “I would express that pain and he was there to listen.”
As many young people are using The Bean Cycle’s poetry slam to release their emotions, Holgerson is earnest in his role of maintaining an open-minded ambiance. He will be there to protect the poets and make everyone feel safe.
As a child, Holgerson’s father worked for a rodeo. This is where he found his heroes, and he compares himself to the clowns in the arena.
“My heroes were not those dumb cowboys riding on a bull, but the clowns who step in the middle. The clown gets in with grace and can redirect the dangerous force away from them,” Holgerson said. “These kids have the guts to stand up and say what they feel – their hearts are pounding. Anybody that gets up there is protected by me, the clown.”
The poetry slam competitors that ‘Booger’ protects are free to speak their minds. As they release their words and emotions, everyone sitting on the couches and chairs in The Bean Cycle can feel the energy. While sipping a hot latte, these are some of the words an audience may hear:
“This system we live in is a psychological prison/ So I’m driven to deliver philosophical wisdom/ society’s brainwashed/ we believe we’re equal/ black males pack jails/ my father’s one of those people/ you tell me whose evil/ those who live illegal?/or puppet politicians hiding lies behind the American eagle?” (JJ Jackson, November 4, 2011.)
The Bean Cycle poetry slam is held every first Friday of the month at 144 N. College Ave. Sign-up is at 7:30pm and the slam begins at 8pm. Participating poets should show up early; there are only 12 spots available. Bring your best three poems, or just come to watch! Find out more at wolverinefarmpublishing.com/events/poetry-slam.html or the beancycle.com.