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Where Words Sustain Us

The first weekly spoken-word show, Where Words Sustain Us has, for years, served as the nexus of Oakland poetry, empowering Bay Area poets to speak their minds. Run by a crew of varied characters who were all bitten by the spoken word bug years ago, Where Words Sustain Us has managed keep it down-to-earth for the long term, as old members leave and more new faces arrive.

The event has settled in well at the Black Box for 2002, showcasing a talented team of slam regulars and numerous out-of-town features for open-mic nights. On the first and third Thursdays of the month, "Best Open Mic in Oakland" gets full attention with host Yaddos (aka Carlos, among friends 'n' family). Every second and fourth Thursday spotlights The Oakland Poetry Slam, always followed by a sharing open mic, hosted by Sonia Whittle and Kenny Mostern -- the latter coming on board as co-host in March to share duties as Sonia's pregnancy.

"Where the room buzzes, the readers get the spirit," as Kenny puts it. And speaking of particularly hot open-mic nights, he describes them as "off the hook with a huge crowd and a huge presence of local hip-hop talent, in addition to our regular stock of poets."

A couple of noteworthy open-mic nights in May included feature Gabrillah, who spoke and strummed to a captivated crowd, followed late in the night by tons of psyched out poets of all styles. Two weeks later, feature Kasim magnetized the stage and stirred the gathering using his profound ability to convey reflective thoughts on human existence.

After the season gets under way in February, the energy builds up gradually and months of practice deliver more rapid-fire presentations and intensity. The crowds get bigger for both the open mics and slams, which in turn also fires up the performers even further. The month of June heightens the competitive nature of local slammers, when poets get ready to go the National Poetry Slam. There is some very active jostling and loud posturing just to be placed. Numbers whittle down to ten in the finals, where only four performers will get to represent the Oakland team, and they have to come up with some stellar writing to achieve this.

Be assured it's not all the same people from last year -- there's no shortage of fresh blood. Even after finals have come and gone, you can be sure to catch slammers with crowd-pleasing delivery and content, occasionally of the stomach-turning variety, but hey, everyone's gotta represent, right?

Where Words Sustain Us
Thursdays @ 9:3 pm (door at 9 pm)
Black Box Theater
1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510.451.1932
$5 (except during Slam Finals)