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Verses and flow: Black film fest gets more depth through poetry slam

Profile image for Lucinda Breeding
Lucinda Breeding

For the Denton Black Film Festival, films about black lives and experiences make up the centerpiece of an event with a lot of programming. 

Before the weekend is up, the homegrown film fest will open an art exhibit that explores an early settlement of "freedmen," former slaves, in Denton. And a full day of festival-related art, music and film will keep the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center busy on Saturday, with an after-hours event capping it off. 

Festival officials have supplemented the films with music and, for the third consecutive year, a poetry slam. 

 Verb, a slam champion and the woman behind Verb Kulture, returns to the festival to coordinate the Poetry Get-Down and Slam. Verb Kulture hosts poetry, music, dance and art events across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She hosts annual "Night at the Cotton Club" events in North Texas to celebrate the art of the Harlem Renaissance. 

"They heard about me and heard about what I do through my company, and they thought poetry would be a good addition to the festival," said Verb, who is based in the D-FW area. Through Verb Kulture, the poet and artist said she plans events that focus on poetry, music, dance and art.

"Not every event includes all of those things, but poetry, dance and the arts is what I do," she said. 

Verb said a poetry slam and open mic complement the festival, which promises to entertain, educate and inform. 

"Poetry, in my eyes, is always a good addition, especially when so many people will have maybe heard of poetry slams but haven't seen one," she said. 

Poetry slams grew out of Chicago's literary scene in the 1980s. Poets compete, reciting original poems about anything and everything. 

"Yes, everything," Verb said.  "It’s open to everything. Whoever gets up at the mic for a slam, you go through that artist’s experience. People might want to talk about politics, people might want to talk about religion. People might want to make you laugh. But you go through an emotional journey with the poet."

Slam poetry doesn't belong to any particular culture.

"Culturally, everyone slams," Verb said. "What I like about it is that it is educating people. There are so many other people out there who don’t know what slam poetry is. They remember Robert Frost or Maya Angelou, and reading it on a stage. Poetry slams are original poetry. The poets are doing their own work. You get to hear it and see it."

The evening starts with an open mic, a time for any poet to try out their material. The slam is a competition. Each poet will have three minutes to perform an original piece. Judges are randomly chosen from the audience, and will score each poet with guidance from the coordinators. The winning slam poet will get $500. The second-place winner will get a $250 prize. 

Verb said patrons likely will see national and international slam poetry champions.

"We've definitely had national and international poets in the last two years," she said. 

The spoken word portion of the festival is another mode of storytelling, and Verb said film fans will find a lot to enjoy in the  artists who participate. 

"I've done the poetry before. I've been a slam champion," she said. "This is what I like to do now. I like to give other artists a platform to do their art. You are being able to bring to life something someone has created. It’s very relevant for the film festival. There aren’t many film festivals that have that added to the programming."

DJ Frances Jaye, founder of Neo Soul Cafe, will provide music at the poetry event. 

If you go

What: Denton Black Film Festival Poetry Get-Down and Slam

When: Doors open at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26. Open mic starts at 8 p.m. and the poetry slam starts at 10 p.m. 

Where: Patterson-Appleton Arts Center, 400 E. Hickory St.

How much: Tickets cost $12. Registration for the slam costs $25.  See our festival schedule for festival passes.