Stewart wins poetry slam

Alexandra Stewart. Photo by Jeff Mayers
Alexandra Stewart. Photo by Jeff Mayers

About an hour after delivering a powerful performance piece on the exploitation of artists and the failure of some to compensate them respectfully, Alexandra Stewart was rewarded with a $50,000 first prize.

Stewart led the trio of women who topped the First Citizens National Poetry Slam on Sunday night.

In second place, with a gripping and powerful piece about parenting, was Shinique Saunders, with defending champion Deneka Thomas in third place.

Stewart’s poem, which pointed out the unfairness of asking artists to work for intangibles such as exposure or for refreshments, was punchy and sharp.

The intermittent laughs, gasps and echoes of agreement added to the seriousness of a topic which resonated with artistes and art-lovers.

"An artist cannot survive on an empty belly," Stewart had told the audience earlier, and it was clear that her call was heard.

Just before announcing the winners, head judge Angelique Nixon said the competition had been extremely difficult to judge.

With topics including family violence, police violence, crime, fertility and parenting, Nixon said the judging came down to issues such as timing, and minor points became major.

"Every single poet and the attention to craft must be applauded, and the judges wish each of you a beautiful journey wherever this poetry takes you," Nixon said.

The Game of Thrones-themed event started with a melodic Caribbean remix of the show's intro score and a dramatisation of the battle of the microphone throne. This was followed swiftly by the sacrificial poet and the 16 finalists.

The judge's jobs may have been unimaginably difficult as poet after poet teased a range of emotions, bringing merriment, pain, hope, loss, derision, fear, joy, and every other feeling on the spectrum.

Host Thaddy Boom described the diversity as a “poetic pelau” which may have been apt for diversity of style, thought and perspectives presented to and appreciated by an audience who came to be intrigued, startled and to see a mirror of themselves speaking back.

Every poet left a mark on the supportive audience, who cheered, gasped, responded when called upon and showed their appreciation throughout the three-hour-long event.

The First Citizens National Poetry Slam is held annually in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest and the Two Cents Movement and is in its eighth year.

FCB deputy CEO Jason Julien said the show was sold out, with 1,100 people in the crowd at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain.

Saying FCB had been the title sponsor of the event for the past eight years, Julien added, "Our people need investing for the next hundred years."

Playing off Stewart’s poem, he said First Citizens had put its money where its mouth was.

The poetry slam was the final event of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.


"Stewart wins poetry slam"

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