Portland’s Literary Arts organization hosts monthly open mic and slam poetry event accessible to all
On Oct. 20, Slamlandia, hosted by Literary Arts, returned to Portland. The event, which occurs on the third Thursday of every month, is organized by Julia Gaskill, a lifelong Portland resident, published poet and “professional daydreamer” according to her biography.
Slamlandia is divided into two parts: open mic and slam poetry. Open mic is an opportunity for poets to share their works aloud, while slam poetry is a competition between poets that five judges from the audience score.
Performance slots are first-come-first-serve and open to anyone, with eight open slots for open mic and ten open slots for slam, and all poems are time-restricted to up to three minutes. Five audience members are invited to judge poets during the slam portion, starting at a default of 8.3 points and increasing or decreasing based on how the judges enjoyed the performance.
Slamlandia emphasizes providing “a creative, fun, and welcoming space for all literary communities,” according to its website description. It is hosted at Literary Arts, a small space in downtown Portland with warm lighting and a comfortable atmosphere. While not every seat was filled, the room was full of family, friends and community members alongside the performers, turning the room into a community space.
The featured poet was Xylophone Mykland, @xylophonepoetry on Instagram, who is self-described as a “neurodivergent, agender lesbian poet.” Mykland was featured as part of their debut poetry collection book tour, “Someone I Can Hold Gently.”
Mykland started with a Mad Libs style poem they called “Sad Libs” for the way it explored their mental health over the years. They also performed a contrapoem — two poems side-by-side read one at a time and then across the whole combined line — and a variety of poems from their new book. The poetry from their new book shared their life story in second-person poems addressed to their mother, first love, best friend and themself.
In the past, Slamandia has featured poets such as Valerie Yvette Peterson, who has written and performed poetry across the country for more than 35 years, and Brennan DeFrisco, who has served as the county arts coordinator for California Poets, Poetry Out Loud and the San Francisco Arts Commission.
Aside from the featured artist, a dozen other poets also had the opportunity to perform. Three of the poets who performed at the open mic were new to performing. They received cheers from the audience for their courage in sharing their stories through poetry.
The performing poets explored a wide variety of topics, ranging from explorations of nature in humidity, swamps and fields, to city life, PTSD, trauma, identity, horror movies and trans stories. Despite the heaviness of some of those topics, the poets often turned back to joy, and the progress they made in their journeys to self-acceptance and improving their mental health.
The next Slamlandia is on Nov. 17 and features poet Little Blue. Slamlandia is hosted at Literary Arts the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. Entry on every third Thursday is free. Slamlandia also hosts more irregular open mic House Shows, and entry to those is $5. They can be found at @slamlandia on Instagram and Twitter, and also at slamlandia.com or literary-arts.org for more information.
For more frequent slam poetry, Slamlandia also has a sibling open mic called Portland Poetry Slam that is held every other Sunday at 4 p.m. at Tiny’s Coffee Northeast. Portland Poetry Slam can be found at @portlandpoetry on Facebook. While entry is free, they suggest a donation of anything up to $5. Portland Poetry Slam also has open sign-ups starting at 3:30 p.m.