Knoxville Poetry Slam!

Knoxville blog post 21 year-old English & American Literature student Lora Christy is currently studying abroad at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She keeps us in the loop as she explores the spoken Word world US style, and her discovery of the Knoxville Poetry Slam! 

When I arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee, the first thing I wanted to know was if it had a poetry scene, and I haven’t been disappointed. Once a month, local poets gather at The Well, a basement bar just outside the city centre that regularly hosts live music, comedy, and the Knoxville Poetry Slam. Providing spoken word artists with a fairy light-lit stage, backdropped with Americana including the famous Jack Daniel’s poster, the venue is a perfect space for audiences and performers both. Much like spoken word events in the UK, however, KPS often struggles with numbers, which is a shame since it’s one of the best nights I’ve spent in the city so far and more people should know about it.

Last Sunday was my first time at the slam, and the night began with compères Lane Shuler and Jonathan Clark, otherwise known by his poet name ‘Courageous’, doing some lighthearted comedy and explaining how the night would run.

Lora Christy Courageous

The set-up is similar to Big Talk, with a combination of open mic slots and headline acts, although KPS has its open mic in the first half, then dedicates the entire second half to its one featured poet, usually one of national, or at least regional, acclaim. First up was Knoxville poet ‘Upset’ who performed a funny but sweet love poem to his blind dog, Ramona. He was followed by several other open mic acts of varying ages and experience, some from as far as Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington DC. After an interval of improvised rapping from the hosts and an acoustic performance of a Buddhist mantra, KPS welcomed it’s headliner for the night, Dasan Ahanu.

Lora Christy Dasan Ahanu




Competing in slams both regionally and nationally, Ahanu is a founding member of the Bull City Slam Team from Durham, North Carolina, a team that won the 2010 Southern Fried Southeastern Regional Poetry Slam, the largest of its kind in the country. As soon as he gets on stage, you’re hooked by his charismatic presence and distinct voice, so it’s no wonder he’s already found success on the slam scene. Performing several of his poems for us that night, Ahanu covered a broad spectrum of themes including relationships, fairytales, and pride for his homeland of the deep south. Some of his performances are available to watch on YouTube, so it’s worth checking him out on there if you can’t catch one of his shows in person. The night ended with Courageous taking the stage, closing the slam on a strong performance of one of his own poems. I’m glad I found the Knoxville Poetry Slam so early into my time here, it’s definitely something I’ll keep coming back to, and if you ever happen to be in the area on the last Sunday of the month you should come and check it out too.