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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 28, 2003

National competition calls to Hawai'i slam poet

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

You'll have to forgive First Thursdays founder and host Kealoha for skipping next month's edition of his popular monthly poetry slam. The talented Honolulu spoken word artist has been invited to participate in the 2003 National Poetry Slam competition, scheduled for Aug. 5 through Aug. 9 in Chicago.

Hawai'i slam poet Kealoha is Chicago-bound in August to match verse at the National Poetry Slam.

Michael K.S.C. Wong

The two-time Wordstew poetry slam champion is the first-ever Hawai'i-based poet invited to solo at the granddaddy of United States slam competitions. He will be matching verse with a field of more than 270 poets from around the world for the title of slam champion and $5,000.

While forming the state's first poetry slam team for next year's national competition in St. Louis, Kealoha applied for entrance in this year's NPS competition in May. He got the invite on July 9.

His mornings since have still been filled taking care of First Thursdays business. "(But) for the rest of the day, I'm basically in front of the mirror or lying down, practicing my timing," he said.

Kealoha said he is already deep into practicing three pieces he considers strong enough for the national contest. He will need two of these for preliminary bouts Aug. 6 and 7, and three additional pieces should he make the final 10 competition Aug. 9. Kealoha wasn't sweating having enough material, though.

"I have 30 pieces right now, so I'm not too worried," Kealoha said.

Since its debut earlier this year, Kealoha's First Thursdays has become one of the best attended poetry slams in the United States, regularly drawing more than 500 spoken word fans to downtown arts haven Studio 1 on the first Thursday of each month. It's next outing is Aug. 7 at 8 p.m. Find more information on First Thursdays at www.hawaiislam.com and www.KealohaPoetry.com.