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Poets pack a punch at the Summer Slam

ENCINITAS — Between the jeers and cheers, the finger snapping and the whooping and hollering, poets ascended the stage at the historic La Paloma Theatre to recite the spoken word in front of a packed house.
The annual Full Moon Poets Summer Poetry Slam was held Sept. 11. The open call began at 6 p.m. when hopeful poets put their name in a popcorn box, from which only 19 were selected at random to perform in the first of three rounds. The competition gives participants three minutes to recite an original work without props or costumes, but with plenty of emotion.
Judges were also selected at random from the audience. The five-member panel scored each poet on a scale of one to 10. Some were more generous than others-eliciting a range of responses from other audience members. “Surfing Madonna” artist Mark Patterson served as a judge.
While no props, musical instruments, costumes or recorded music were allowed, “Flying Laura” kicked off the event with a daring, acrobatic pole dance. San Diego-based artist Laura Martin wowed the crowd with her seductive, body-defying performance along a steel pole in the middle of the stage. “I totally wasn’t expecting that,” said Sharon Pipin. “It was a nice touch for sure.”
Not to be outdone, the poets took the stage; some delivering somber prose and others eliciting laughs from the audience. Swami Bruce, a fixture in the local community, emceed the event despite his recent battle with cancer. He delivered a poetic year in review of sorts before the contest began. “It’s been a tough year,” he said. “Swami Bruce went under the knife and lives to blog about it,” he said in part, eliciting cheers from the audience.
Rudy Francisco, a former first place finisher, spoke with passion and revelation in his self-deprecating first poem. “I was born feet first and I’ve been backward ever since,” he said. The judges were impressed, handing out scores of 10 to the veteran poet.
Jim Babwe, a local veteran of poetry slams, provided some levity with his poem about the marital crisis between a proctologist and a gastroenterologist. Needless to say, the language was not for the squeamish.
The Full Moon Poets Society hosted the biannual event with sponsorship from several local businesses. Another poetry slam will be held in the winter.
There were three elimination rounds going from 19 poets to eight, with the final three contestants battling for the top spot. Prize money collected from the audience went to the winner. “I like the fact that you never know what you’re going to get when you come to these slams,” said Petra Morgan, a local resident. “Some years are better than others and these guys are on tonight.”
The competition is now in its 12th year and has developed a reputation as a “must-do” slam among local poets while also drawing bards from outside the county.
 The free event packed the theater with approximately 400 people. “Not bad for a Sunday night,” said Peter Berg, who was attending his second slam. “These people really go all out in a venue that can be intimidating,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to be on that stage.” 
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