Human Interest

Sedona will be on the world stage once more as Claire Pearson will head to Flagstaff to represent the city at the Individual World Poetry Slam.

iWPS will take place at multiple venues from Wednesday though Saturday, Oct. 12 through 15, featuring 96 of the best of the world’s performance poets.

Pearson said she was more excited than anything to fill the spot, having earned it by winning the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre.

She said she is a little nervous about performing but that experience both volunteering for a previous iWPS as well as slamming at the most recent Women of the World Poetry Slam have helped her build her confidence. The support of other competitors at WOWps was a significant boost to performing and with Arizona well represented at this year’s iWPS, she thinks the positive atmosphere will continue.

Many of Pearson’s poems draw from her real life experiences, she said, but “boy-howdy, I sure do like to embellish,” hence the term poetic license. When it comes to the themes of her work, Pearson said she can fall into writing similar subject matter.

“I end up writing the same poem eight times, and I think, there has to be something more interesting than that,” she said.

Her oddest poem was one she wrote when she was 16, in a spat of “exponential sass,” where a green and purple dragon named Harold went on a string of adventures.

Whether or not the similarities of theme affect her scores — slams are scored by five randomly selected judges — doesn’t seem to be much of a problem though.

“Ideally, the judges will have never been to a slam before so they have no idea what to expect,” she said.

When creating a poem, she said she often compiles snippets of prior work, sometimes spanning several months, that naturally fit together.

Pearson said she has yet to come up with her list of poems to perform at iWPS, but that she usually struggles the most with the longest and shortest, which need to time in at one and four minutes. The poems can be works previously performed, but cannot be repeated in iWPS and must be original.

Making a repeat performance stand out, even to a different crowd, is a matter of body movement, she said. Getting into the piece is key and she has a few warm-ups that while they may seem strange, she said helps her loosen into the role. Some of these include the “lion” and the “raisin” which work facial expressions to wide eyes and stretched mouth to the exact opposite.

Regardless of theme or content, she said the one reaction she enjoys bringing out in people, and having brought out in herself, is goose bumps.

Pearson said she is looking forward to hearing from other Arizona poets who will represent other areas, as well as “storm” poets, who entered into a type of lottery to compete without a home base. These include the Klute, whom Pearson defeated on Aug. 20, Gabbi Jue from Flagstaff and Joy Young of Phoenix. She also said she hopes to see last year’s winner, Emi Mahmoud, perform. Mahmoud recently performed in the White House.

Pearson remained coy about what she would feel or do if she were to win, but did say it would be exceptionally gratifying. Looking ahead, she will be taking on the role of slammaster — emceeing the event — for the regular season of slam poetry in Flagstaff.

More information, as well as tickets, can be found online at

Individual World Poetry Slam

Flagstaff is the host city of the 2016 Individual World Poetry Slam, run by the nonprofit Poetry Slam Inc. Some 96 performance poets will compete Wednesday though Saturday, Oct. 12 through 15, for the championship. Some 96 performance poets will compete Wednesday though Saturday, Oct. 12 through 15, for the championship title. Some poets are represented by home venues, like Claire Pearson representing Sedona, while others are unaffiliated “Storm” poets.

You can follow iWPS on Twitter at #iWPSFLG.

How iWPS Works

The iWPS bouts are broken up into four separate rounds with different time requirements.  Unlike other regulation slams with 3-minute rounds, iWPS includes 4, 1, 2, and 3-minute rounds.

Poets are judged by five members of the audience, chosen at random.  Judges score each poem by the same set of criteria, including content, performance, and originality. The high and low scores of each round are omitted, and the middle three are added to give the performer his or her score. Each preliminary bout consists of two rounds, and points are cumulative over both preliminary bouts.

The 12 highest-scoring poets after the preliminary bouts move on to Finals, where their cumulative totals are reset. Finals consists of three 3 minute rounds with the same time restrictions, and the poet with the highest score for that night goes home with the championship. Poets are not allowed to repeat poems during either the preliminary bouts or in finals.




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