If you have poetic flair, here is a competition you would enjoy participating in

What you might ask, is a poetry slam and why should you care? Poetry slam takes poetry, a literary endeavour, and turns it into a performing art. It is a competition among poets, amateurs or professionals, with a dual emphasis on the content of the poem as well as its delivery. A uniquely American art form, like jazz and hip-hop, it has its roots in underground clubs across the United States. Also like jazz and hip-hop, “slamming” has become a mainstream artistic movement, increasingly popular across the world, and now, for the first time, coming to Chennai, courtesy the U.S. Consulate and Prakriti Foundation.

The idea of a poetry slam is simple: participants take to the stage one by one and recite their poems. They are of all social classes, religions, political beliefs. In their poetry, some are shy and awkward, others defiant and irreverent. No matter. The essential thing is to say something, and to say it in a way, that would get the listeners to think, feel, and connect.

This is, in short, the story of the “Brave New Voices,” a documentary film by HBO to be screened during the Chennai International Film Festival on December 17 at Woodlands Theatre, Royapettah at 2:30 p.m. The film follows five teams from across the U.S. who compete for a place in the International Poetry Slam finals. The participants show an amazing range of poetic styles, performance techniques, address a surprising number of issues, feelings and thoughts. The versatility of poetry slamming has already made it a fixture in the contemporary art scene in the U.S. particularly among the younger generation.

In tandem with the film, the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai and Prakriti Foundation will bring the poetry slam format to Chennai to find the “Brave New Voices of Chennai” on December 18 at Museum Theatre at 5 p.m. Kamilah Forbes, Co-Executive Producer of the “Brave New Voices” film will curate the event and act as a judge.

There are almost no rules or restrictions in this event, participants can pick any theme, topic or language in which to express themselves. The only rules are meant to keep things fair. Participants will have an equal amount of time to recite their poetry, limited to two minutes. The work must be original and your own, and no accessories (music, costume, props) are allowed to enhance the performance. Your words are the key.

The competition is free, with no restrictions on who can join, as a participant or a spectator. No passes are required.

After performances by five well-known poets (Meena Kandaswamy, Sharnaya Manivannan, Rhumjhum Biswas, J. Vasanth Kumar and Dominic Franks) who will kick-start the event, the microphone is open to all. “Brave New Voices of Chennai” will be an interactive evening that will invite the audience to not only take the mike, but also vote for their favourite new poet. A popular DJ will play the latest music to energise the crowd.

At the end of event, the panel of judges including Kamilah Forbes and television personality Gobinath of “Neeya Naana” fame will announce winners in 4 categories: Audience Favourite-English; Audience Favourite-Regional Language; Judge's Favourite-English and Judge's Favourite-Regional Language. Exciting prizes for the winners include gift certificates from Landmark Book Store and Taj Hotels.