A new slam poetry group in Fort Smith seeks to create a community for local writers and those who love the written word.
Fort City Slam is the brainchild of Shandi Siler and Schuyler Brooks.
Siler, 34, moved to Fort Smith about five years ago and had missed the poetry nights she loved growing up in Hot Springs. She didn’t realize how lucky she had been to grow up with it.
“I’m at this point in my life right now where I just want more,” Siler said. “I really want another fulfillment of my loves, the things I’ve always loved.”
In search of this enrichment, Siler traveled to the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith to find anyone interested in starting a local writers group.
Brooks, 23, jumped at the chance.
“With Fort Smith evolving and currently has a hot spot like the Bakery District,” Brooks said. “I think that would be an easy way to share what you’re talking about – this connection, the connectivity, the feeling of being together and being able to share.”
Fort City Slam will present its first event at 6 p.m. on December 3 in Bookish in the Bakery District. It will feature local poet Avreigh Watson before hosting an open mic.
Siler believes that poetic events are often misunderstood and are easier to appreciate with some understanding of how they work.
The events are not what they appear to be in the movies, with dark lighting and clicks like you might see in “So I Married an Ax Murderer” or “An Extremely Goofy Movie”.
“When you really go to an event and you realize what it is, there’s such a sense of humanity and understanding who (is playing),” Siler said.
It can almost sound like a church service, she said, with the relationship between artist and audience.
“I have always thought that poetry, especially spoken poetry in particular, has a sense of the gospel,” Brooks said. “It’s just the thing you get – that sense of connection you’re looking for – and I think in a different way than people are used to experiencing.”
Brooks wants others to experience it.
While the group aims to create a space for writers, the duo want everyone to feel welcome and have a place to enjoy poetry.
“We want to build a community for writers and people who appreciate spoken poetry,” Siler said.
Siler and Brooks were shocked at the reception given to the group and are delighted to see participation next month.
The event is open to everyone, but not all content is guaranteed to be suitable for minors. They want writers to feel comfortable sharing their work wholeheartedly.
Anyone interested in Fort City Slam or its first event can contact through their Facebook page or by email at [email protected]
Abbi Ross is the company and featured reporter for the Southwest Times Record. She can be reached at aross @ swtimes or on Twitter at @__AbbiRoss