SUFFERN, N.Y.- Thanks to the efforts of the hardworking poets at Suffern Poetry, Rockland County will be represented in this year’s National Poetry Slam Competition for the 4th year in a row.
While poetry is thought of by some as an antiquated form of expression, forced into obsolescence by the glittering digital extravagance of the 21st century, what many don’t know is that it’s more alive today than ever.
Bryan Roessel, a Tuxedo High School science teacher and an avid poet, is a living testament to this fact.
Roessel started Suffern Poetry and the Suffern Slam Society back in 2011 after being introduced to competitive poetry earlier that same year at a “slam” in White Plains.
“For the uninitiated, a poetry slam is a performance poetry competition judged by the audience,” Roessel explained.
Although competitive poetry was originally part of the Olympics in ancient Greece during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C., slam poetry as it exists today was founded in 1984 at a Chicago nightclub by poet Marc Smith who felt poetry needed to be given “back to the people.”
Since then, poetry has taken off in ways even T. S. Elliot himself couldn’t have predicted.
Poetry’s resurgence is exemplified by the National Poetry Slam, an annual festival open to eligible teams all throughout North America. It began in 1990 and has since hosted 72 teams with four to five poets each year who compete against one another in different events.
The festival this year will take place in Decatur, Georgia from Aug. 1 through Aug. 6 and will include events such as the Nerd Slam, the Haiku Death Match, Grief and Remembrance Readings, and Stand Up Comedy competitions.
“In addition people will hang out in hotel rooms or street corners or hotel rooftops literally until six or seven in the morning just talking and sharing poems…. it’s really easy to not sleep,” Roessel said.
One could say that Roessel and his team’s repeated representation at the highly-competitive festival is a fine example of poetic justice.
Suffern Poetry’s team this year includes four poets: Nick Nappo, Benedicto Figueroa, Wendy Baquerizo, and Joseph Quiroz, and the team coach, Roessel.
“The things they will learn and the experiences they will have… they’re going to bring that back with them so I think that will make our scene richer as a consequence.”
Suffern Poetry hosts slams the first Saturday of every month in Nyack’s Casa Del Sol and hosts poetry open mics at the Suffern Village Hall every third Saturday of the month from September through July.
In total Suffern Poetry has hosted over a hundred events, which thousands of people have attended.
Roessel stresses the positive influence poetry has had on the himself and others.
“When people say, 'This scene means a lot to me. It makes my life better. It helps me get through what I’m going through,' that’s what makes it all worth while.”
So far the team’s fundraising for Nationals has come from cover charges at events and the sale of Suffern Poetry merchandise, including t-shirts, bumper stickers, chapbooks, audio downloads, and poems. Donations and merchandise purchases to help out further can be made at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/send-the-2016-rock-slam-team-to-nationals/