Standpipe Coffee House, located in downtown Lufkin on First Street, will host a poetry Grand Slam presented by Mike Guinn Entertainment on April 1, 2016. The free event begins at 8 p.m. and is open to any person in East Texas of any age to present their original work either in the competition or during an open mic session.
Presented the first Friday of every month from February to October, the Slam has been running for two years. “I create a safe place on the mic,” Guinn said. “An environment where [participants] can feel safe and gain confidence from the audience. I try to provide information about publishing and copyright. I don’t charge anything.”
The slam includes an open mic portion where anyone can stand up and read their original work or perform music they have written. All material must be family friendly since the event is open to the public.
After the open mic, the competitive part of the Grand Slam begins. Participants in the competition must sign up between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday night. “As long as the participant is on time, they will be able to enter,” Guinn said.
Participants must prepare and read three original works to be performed in under 5 minutes. During their performance, the participants are judged by selected members of the audience, some of which have experience in writing and some who do not.
The winner of the competitive portion wins $75 and a chance to be the feature poet for the next slam. As the feature poet, the winner would be invited to present several of their works, sell any merchandise, and be an onstage mentor for the other participants.
Other Featured Poets are brought in from Dallas, Houston, and surrounding areas. The Featured Poet for Friday is Jessie Riley, an SFA student majoring in theater.
For participants, the slam provides more than just a place to grow as a writer and presenter; it is also a place for writers to connect with editors, publishers, and fans.
Participants such as Emily Lollar, winner of the January 2016 slam and featured poet in February 2016, made contacts through the slam, and now she has a book of her work published called “Life, Sex, and an Empty Coffee Mug.”
Lollar began writing 5 years ago, and she participated in the very first slam in 2014.
“It was pretty crazy, honestly,” Lollar said. “I never thought I was that good and was surprised when I won. Being feature poet was amazing and terrifying. Everyone is looking at you as you read poem after poem and pour your heart out to them.”
Lollar says she will definitely be participating in the next few slams.
Megan Harbuck is the winner of the February 2016 slam, and she began writing when she was five years old. She began participating in the slams in 2014, and described how she had worked very hard to improve her writing, and it was an “absolutely amazing feeling” for her to win a slam.
“I kept stumbling over myself because it almost felt like there was an expectation of me,” Harbuck said. “There wasn’t, of course. There’s no judgement in poetry.”
Harbuck said she will continue to participate in the slam and plans to participate in other slams around Texas as well.
Guinn found Standpipe after searching the East Texas area for a venue for the Poetry Grand Slam. He messaged the Coffee Shop on Facebook, and kept up a correspondence with owner Ben Harbuck until the Grand Slam was born.
Guinn, with a bachelor’s degree in social work from Stephen F. Austin State University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Texas in Arlington, became a child abuse investigator for the state of Texas. One day, in 1997,he came home from a particularly hard case and sat down to write. Guinn has been writing ever since.
Guinn is the founder of Mike Guinn Entertainment. His home town of Jacksonville is right here in East Texas. For any questions or additional information, contact Mike Guinn at (972)-704-5001 or www.mikeguinn.biz.