Now Hear This: Spoken Word Takes Center Stage at La Paloma This Week

Clear your schedule for Thursday night. It’s time for the La Paloma Winter Poetry Slam again.

Thursday night it might get loud, and a little rowdy, inside

That’s where hundreds will gather for the La Paloma Winter Poetry Slam, a celebration of spoken word with a rip-roaring reputation that’s earned it a spot in the hearts of locals.

If you go, there’s just one rule you should know. 

“Poets have to leave their egos and the door, and judges have to leave their political opinions at the door,” jokes Danny Salzhandler, the self-proclaimed “slam master” who is part of the Full Moon Poets group that’s been organizing this event for 14 years.

The poems range from heavy to hilarious, and that’s the whole point. The slam is intended to be an outlet for all sorts of topics and all style of poetry.

This slam follows the same rules as most: Poets who want a shot at the mic should show up early to enter their names in a drawing. Those names will all be tossed into a large popcorn bucket, and 17 will be drawn to win a spot on center stage. Each person will get to preform three original poems, which have to be three minutes or shorter. 

No costumes, sets or props are allowed — just a person sharing his spoken word with packed theater. That takes some guts, and the audience respects it, Salzhandler says.

“We get people up there who are trembling,” he says. “It takes a lot to do this, so the audience goes easy on them.” 

The judges, however, don’t always fare as well. In fact, the audience is encouraged to get loud, hissing and booing if they disagree with one of the judges, who are all selected at random from the audience.

“We always try to pick everyday people from the audience to judge the poets,” Salzhandler says. “We don’t want someone like an English teacher who will be taking off points because a poem doesn’t follow proper format.” 

The five judges are asked to consider content just as much as delivery.

“It’s not always about what someone is saying, but how they say it,” Salzhandler explains. 

Bruce Stephens — better known as ‘Swami Bruce’ — will emcee the poetry slam, as he’s done since the 2009 passing of Bob Nanninga, a well-known local activist and supporter of the arts.

This year the opening act will be a screening of a short film by the 101 Artists’ Colony, which the Moonlight Poets is an offshoot of. The film, which was several years in the making and was funded by a city grant, includes an interview with , who was a champion of the local arts and a longtime supporter of the poetry slam. For many in the audience, this will be the first time they’ve seen the footage, as this is only the second public screening of the film.

The poetry slam is and always has been free to anyone who wants to attend — but because the event is usually a packed house, you’re advised to get there early if you want a seat.

Want to hear what all the fuss is about? Here’s the rundown:

  • What: La Paloma Winter Poetry Slam presented by the Full Moon Poets
  • Where: La Paloma Theatre, 471 S. Coast Highway
  • When: Thursday, March 8 — Poets who wants to enter their names in the drawing should arrive by 6 p.m. The show starts at 7 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Encinitas Patch is a sponsor of this event. 

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