Courtesy of Octavio Quintanilla
Since its inception back in 1999, the San Antonio institution known as PuroSlam has called many venues home — from bygone haunts like Re:Verb, the Wild Club, El Toro and the Korova to still-active mainstays like Sam’s Burger Joint, Southtown 101 and the Mix — while staying true to its roots as a platform for outspoken, envelope-pushing spoken word. Founded by Benjamin Ortiz and in the hands of wordsmith Jason “Shaggy” Gossard since 2000, the Tuesday night tradition follows a steadfast format: anyone can sign up to compete, poets are given three minutes onstage to spit strictly original material, random audience members help judge performances on a scale from zero to 10, prizes are awarded, DJ Donnie Dee spins during the breaks — and booze and heckling are both part of the equation.
PuroSlam leader Jason “Shaggy” Gossard photographed by Casey Howell
“There is a reason I hold [the] slam so late and at a bar — I want it to have that punk-rock atmosphere,” Gossard explained to the Current
in 2014. Unsurprisingly, PuroSlam’s uncensored, punk-rock spirit hasn’t gone unnoticed at the National Poetry Slam (NPS), a roving championship tournament the group nearly won as a fresh force to be reckoned with back in 2000. (Boos and hisses reportedly punctuated some of PuroSlam’s irreverent offerings at NPS in 2013.)
For the last seven months, PuroSlam poets have been duking it out at weekly slams in hopes of scoring high enough to land in a group of 10 who’ll compete on March 26 for four coveted spots on a team bound for this year’s NPS in Oakland. So far, confirmed competitors include 2014 San Antonio Grand Slam Poetry Champion Christopher “Rooster” Martinez, 2017 San Antonio Grand Slam Poetry Champion Chibbi, 2018 San Antonio Grand Slam Poetry Champion Diamond Mason, 2018 NPS team member Mandy Lynn, multi-year NPS team member Travis and rookie George Lee. It’s safe to say nerves will be running high as the special guest judge for the qualifying event is none other than San Antonio Poet Laureate Octavio Quintanilla.
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