In the world of poetry slams, artists gather to create, perform and compete. At Providence Poetry Slam (ProvSlam), local poets slam for the chance to be heard and to travel to national and international poetry competitions with writers from around the world.
Charlotte Abotsi, one of the co-directors of ProvSlam, believes that the program’s most defining qualities are its uniqueness and its inclusiveness. “We’ve been around for over 20 years and the intention has always been to create a place for writers to share their work,” says Charlotte. “ProvSlam’s importance lies in the fact that that there is nothing else like it in Rhode Island, and we’re one of the few venues with adult and youth slams.”
Through their slams, workshops and open mics, ProvSlam provides a place dedicated to uplifting people in the community. “We’re really about representing a diversity of voices and engaging with language and truth,” Charlotte says. “We don’t want ProvSlam to ever be a space where people are afraid to be who they are. With ProvSlam, we encourage people to be their true selves.”
To match their mission of openness, ProvSlam holds events dedicated to youth, women and individuals who are gender non-conforming. One of the pillars of ProvSlam’s work, according to Charlotte, is its youth programming. “I have seen ProvSlam do life changing work,” she says. “I think it’s so important to work with youth in our community because our youth are the future.”
Charlotte herself became involved in ProvSlam at 14 years old through its youth programming when a teacher encouraged her to join. “I fell in love and never left,” she says. Now, she serves as a coach for the youth team and the booking coordinator for the shows, scheduling nationally acclaimed poets to perform at their events and hold workshops for teen writers at New Urban Arts. Teen poets also compete in slams to form a team for the Brave New Voices festival, an annual weeklong gathering of teen poets from all over the world in San Francisco.
For adults, ProvSlam selects groups and individuals to compete at the National Poetry Slam, the Individual World Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. This month, they are excited to be sending their winning poet, Justice Ameer, to the Women of the World slam in Dallas, TX. “We’re pretty certain that Justice will actually be the first black trans woman to go to the festival,” Charlotte says.
ProvSlam happens every first and third Thursday of the month at AS220, which include a slam, a featured poet and an open mic. March 16 will be the last open qualifier for adults to compete for a chance to move on to national slams. For the audience, it’s a night of entertainment and emotion as they watch and help select the poets who will keep competing. “There is something about stepping into the space that is just so uplifting,” says Charlotte. “You can expect high energy, but you can also expect to be deeply moved and inspired.”
Providence Poetry Slam
115 Empire Street