UrbArts presents the 20th annual Rustbelt Midwest Regional Poetry Slam to be held in Grand Center at .Zack Friday, June 21st & Saturday, June 22nd. Over one hundred of the nation’s top spoken word poets will gather for this competition where the cash prizes are $1,500 for top team and $600 for the top individual poet.
Dubbed “Rustbelt 2019 Poetry Slam Tournament” to further emphasize the competitive nature of this annual convening of poets, St. Louisans will experience the vanguard of spoken word artists representing cities from San Diego to New York with a strong contingent of performers from Missouri including St. Louis, Columbia, Springfield, and Kansas City.
Poetry Slam originated in America during the mid-1980s when Marc Smith, a Chicago construction worker, wanted to make poetry readings more engaging for audiences. Smith visited St. Louis in 1989 and shared his game with Bob Putnam when he hosted the Venice Café’s Monday open mic. A year later, the first national poetry slam would be held in San Francisco. Since that time, regional slams such as the Southern Fried Poetry Slam and later Rustbelt were founded to focus on the wordsmiths from select areas of the country.
Rustbelt got its start in 2000 after a Bill Abbott, poet and creative writing college instructor from Dayton, Ohio, attended Southern Fried and wanted something for the Midwest. Dayton hosted the first Rustbelt slam that year with 8 teams competing. While Abbott is not actively involved in Rustbelt, his work continues through poetry slam groups throughout the Midwest and beyond.
In 2019, UrbArts expanded Rustbelt to 24 teams and 14 individual poets, making this year the largest the field for the tournament thanks to space provided by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation. All of the preliminary poetry slam bouts will be free and open to the public. Bouts will be held Friday night at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm as well as Saturday at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. See the schedule for more details. The final bout is ticketed and costs $20 through Metrotix. All bouts will be held at .Zack.