Monday, July 28, 2014

Salt City Slam: DeAnn Emett

Posted By on July 28, 2014, 9:00 AM

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Tonight over at Weller Book Works, the Salt City Slam team will take over their shop and the conservatory out front in Trolley Square for an evening of local slam poetry at its finest. This month there are no guests, no gimmicks and no special conditions or terms applied to the content. It is the entire SCS team performing for you before taking off for Oakland to perform in the National Poetry Slam starting on August 5. Today we chat with the team's current Slam Master, DeAnn Emett, to talk about her involvement with the art, joining the team and watching it grow, thoughts on her craft and a few other topics. (All pictures courtesy of SCS.)

DeAnn Emett
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Gavin: Hey DeAnn, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

DeAnn: I'm a 29 year old queer woman, who runs a monthly poetry slam at Weller Book Works, and is president of a nonprofit called Wasatch Wordsmiths. I've been on six consecutive national poetry slam teams, represented at three consecutive women of the world poetry slams, and was a finalist at women of the world in 2012.

Gavin: What first got you interested in writing and poetry and what were some early influences on you?

DeAnn: I was introduced to poetry slam by a guy named Shae who used to be slam master before Jesse [Parent]. That would have been in 2007 sometime, and I tried for my first team in 2009, and made it. My early influences would have been Shae, Jesse, Pablo Neruda and the outlaw bible of poetry anthology.

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Gavin: What was your first exposure to slam poetry and what about it hooked you as a fan and writer?

DeAnn: I got hooked as soon as I saw people taking what I did on page and putting it to a performance.

Gavin: What was it like for you practicing and developing your skills as a performer over time?

DeAnn: It was a process! I had a lot of stage fright to overcome, and I was very green to the writing game. It's taken me years to get where I am and I feel like I still have so much further to go.

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Gavin: What was your experience like during the first year, being a part of the team and going to do competitions?

DeAnn: My first team was interesting for a few reasons. One, because I was the only woman on the team. Two, because I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into on a national level. And three, because it was my first time in a team setting for something like poetry.

Gavin: Being in such a creative environment, how did your own skills develop over time?

DeAnn: It's all about reading as much of other people's stuff as possible, and dedicating time to writing every day. One also must be open to constructive criticism and workshopping.

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Gavin: What's the process for you when creating a new slam piece, from concept to performance?

DeAnn: I usually have a concept or idea in mind. Then I'll do a 25 minute free write, pick what I like out of that and build off of it. I'll usually do about 4-5 drafts, have my peers look over it for edits, then memorize. Memorization takes about two hours for me, then I'll workshop the performance with more peers, and finally put the finished product on stage. Occasionally, I'll test it out on page in front of a crowd before memorizing, as well.

Gavin: How much transformation does it go through for you between the first time and the final competition?

DeAnn: SO. MUCH. It's almost always a completely different piece than when I first started.

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Gavin: What's been your most powerful piece for you to perform during your time with SCS?

DeAnn: Oh, we've had so many great group pieces! I think my favorites have been "Legion," written by Jesse Parent about his mother having dissociative identity disorder. Or Rebeca Mae and I have a group piece from the perspectives of Eve and Lilith. And Courtney Hammond and I have a piece called "Shit Straight Guys Say to Queer Women," which is super fun to do. Gray and I also have a poem called "Call It Something Else," which discusses date rape through the metaphor of water themed natural disasters.

Gavin: How often do you find yourself changing and adapting to performances while you're there compared to when you're building it and trying it out?

DeAnn: Every performance is a little bit different, I feel like every time we get on stage is an experiment.

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Gavin: You've become the Slam Master for all ceremonies in Utah, I believe? How did you come to take over that role and how has it been running the show?

DeAnn: Actually, I am slam master for Salt City Slam. We have another slam called Voiceboxer Poetry Slam, of which Benjamin Barker is slam master for. I took this role on when Jesse Parent announced he would like to hand it off to someone else. He'd been doing it for six years, and when he asked me to take over, I promised him I would.

Gavin: Last year you guys started performing regularly at Weller Book Works. How did that partnership come about and how has it been performing in that environment?

DeAnn: We had been at Mo's Bar & Grill for a few years, and Mo chose to give us less than a month's notice when he decided to move his business to a smaller location. I'm not quite sure how the connection came about, as it happened before I took over as slam master, but I think that RJ Walker made the connection, actually. We absolutely love it. It provides an intellectual and stimulating environment for free speech, and the staff at Weller Book Works have been incredibly welcoming.

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Gavin: What have you got planned for Monday night with just the core SCS team?

DeAnn: We are going to show off the pieces we have been working on all summer long. I guess you'll just have to come and see for yourself what exactly this means.

Gavin: For those who wish to take part in the Slam, what do they need to do?

DeAnn: Show up at 8 p.m. and sign up! We have a random draw process for the months when more people have signed up than there are slots available, but those who don't make the draw will slam for sure the following month.

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Gavin: What can we expect from you and Salt City Slam the rest of the year?

DeAnn: You can expect us to bring our A-Game to NPS! Then we'll come home, take a much needed rest, and begin the season again with our Women of the World Poetry Slam Qualifier in September, featuring the formidable Carrie Rudzinski!

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

DeAnn: "Like" Wasatch Wordmiths on Facebook to be kept up to date on all the latest events!

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