Local poet slams truth in his spoken words
Knoxville Poetry Slam Facebook page
Knoxville Poetry Slam is a collective group of poets based in Knoxville, TN hosting monthly poetry slams and open mic events open to the public.
published: May 23 2013 03:11 PM updated:: May 23 2013 03:23 PM

Courageous: possessing or characterized by courage; brave.

Jonathan Clark, known as “Courageous” to people in the poetry world, is the current slam master of the Knoxville Poetry Slam. Clark, a University of Tennessee graduate started school in 2003, but took a leave from school in 2006 and went on to graduate in spring of 2012.

Clark began his poetry career at the age of 13. His inspiration to start writing came from Knoxville's Carpetbag Theatre. After joining the group, he won his first slam at the age of 14. In 2009, Clark became the slam master of the Knoxville Poetry Slam. Slam master is designating the best of the best in ones poetry group. The former slam master, Raya Sunshine, was an inspiration to Clark.

“I’m not afraid to perform in front of strangers, but when I get in front of people I know, that’s what is intimidating to me” Clark said. Public speaking is a fear above death for many. Just get out and do it don’t be afraid and face your fear.”

Clark teaches workshops for anyone trying to learn how to slam.

“Poetry gets a bad rep, like snapping fingers, but it is much more than that,” he said. “I want young people to get more involved in poetry.” 

Clark travels across the southeast teaching workshops and hopes to get involved with local schools for workshop classes soon.

“Everyone has their own perspective on poetry; it changes from person to person.”Jonathan Clark, UT graduate and poetry slam master 

Currently, Clark is reading a book by Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize winner. In the book she writes about how old poetry is hard to read compared to contemporary poetry.

“Everyone has their own perspective on poetry; it changes from person to person,” Clark said.  “Emotions haven’t changed, it’s the way people speak to show their heart.”

Poetry slams are a form of poetry reading that not for the faint of heart. Poetry slams are, most commonly, competitive readings at which audience reaction, or the reaction of a panel of judges, decides who "wins."

Poetry slams are competitive events in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience. Typically, the host or another organizer selects the judges, who give numerical scores based on the poets' content and performance.

Knoxville Poetry Slam meets and practices with teams each month to give each other feedback on what they are working on.  When competing in slams, contestants will receive points. The person with the most points at the end of the season will become season champion.

“The points aren’t what is important, it’s important for people to speak their voice,” Clark said.  “Always remember, the same poem that scored 6.9 may be the same poem that made someone not commit suicide.”

Anyone interested in joining Knoxville Poetry Slam can come to a slam or open mic night and perform. Before performing, contestants need to read the rules at Poetry Slam Inc.

The fourth Sunday of every month, the Knoxville Poetry Slam host s a slam at The Well, a local bar on Kingston Pike. The Knoxville group will be traveling to compete in Southern Fried held in New Orleans June 5-9. Clark asks for people to be on the look out for fundraising opportunities they are working on for their competition. For more information on the Knoxville Poetry Slam group check out their Facebook page by clicking here



Editor: Jessica Carr


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