Slam Poetry 101: Carvens Lissaint


Welcome to Slam Poetry 101 where the insanely talented poets from Verses and Flow school us on the history of the art as well as lessons on their place in it.

Today’s Teacher: Carvens Lissaint

Q: What city would you describe as the birth place of Slam Poetry and why?

A: The birthplace of slam was in Chicago at a small lounge, then moved to its permanent venue The Green Mill Jazz Club. Marc Smith created it as a vehicle to get people to listen to the art form of poetry. It was a brilliant idea to gather people into one space and using the competition as a hook to have the community interested in the beautiful work.

Q: Who is the poet or poem that changed your life?

A: Many poets, and poems have changed my life. Too many to count or to say really… but one poem that stands out is, Sha Clack Clack by Saul Williams. It was one of the first encounters that I understood the meaning of “Awe Struck”. The poem was powerful and the writing challenged me as a thinker. This was in my premature stage of researching poetry. I vowed that I wanted to move people the way I was moved for the rest of my life.

Q: Which era of poetry would you prefer to live in: Harlem Renaissance; 70’s Black Arts Movement or Post Neo Soul and why?

A: I would totally have to say the Harlem Renaissance! I was raised in Harlem, and would have loved to experience that time period. It would have been amazing to watch how the art informed the actions and thinking of African Americans around the world. Seeing the inspiration of writers and musicians who were based right out of upper Manhattan.

Q: Tell us about the first time you performed on stage.

A: The first time I performed poetry on stage, was at the Whitney Museum in New York City. The poem was entitled “Ponder On My Thoughts.” I remember it being so freeing, simply because I had a forum to express my self. I felt like my voice had been shackled for most of my life. The stage felt as if I was emancipated. One of the greatest poetry slams I have ever attended was the 2008 Brave New Voices Poetry Slam Finals in Washington DC. The energy in the room was so thick and the love so strong, it shifted the hearts of many.

Q: Describe the most remarkable Slam poetry event you’ve ever attended?

A: The 2011 Nuyorican Poets Café Grand Slam Finals was an experience I would never forget. Having just gotten out of a depression, and in my first year of acting school, I was beginning to fully come to terms with the calling God has placed on my life. I shared the stage with some amazing poets and it was humbling to be in that legendary space, with every friend and loved one whom supported me from the beginning.

Q: If you were staging your own Slam Poetry night, which poets would you feature and which of their original poems would you like them to perform?

A: Aja Monet – What the **** is you broken for, Saul Williams – Coded Language, Andrea Gibson – Ashes, Buddy Wakefield – Throwing crow birds at mocking bars, Mahogany Browne – This, Rachel McKibbens – Pink Elephant, 6 is 9 – We Married Now, Daniel Beaty – Knock, Knock, Zora Howard – Before Bed, Joshua Bennett – Tamara’s Opus