Sabrina "Heymiss Progress" Madison is on a mission to continue the expansion of Madison’s bustling spoken-word poetry scene. Her Word is Bond Poetry Slam this Saturday night, Nov. 10, at the Urban League of Greater Madison will feature some of Madison’s best and brightest talents.
“I’m very excited about this event because even more people are interested than our first event,” Madison tells The Madison Times over coffee at Jade Mountain Café on Madison’s near east side. “The goal of this is not only to offer the opportunity to slam but to put together a team that can compete at the national level.”
Madison founded the Word is Bond Poetry Slam a few months ago out of the desire to create a more inclusive poetry slam and open mic environment in Madison. She hopes to cultivate community through the sharing of poetry, literary happenings, creative engagement, and artist collaboration.
“We wanted to create an inclusive space where poets and writers alike are comfortable in sharing their work,” she says. “We want to nurture their writing, too. That’s why we offer the free creative writing workshop at 5 o’clock before each open mic slam.”
This month’s slam will feature West High School’s Spoken Word group as the feature. Word is Bond Poetry Slam provides local poets the opportunity to compete individually or as part of a team on the local, regional, and national levels. This will be the second slam in which participants will be able to earn points and the top point earners will be invited to the Grand Slam Championship in March 2013 and will make up the 2013 Word is Bond Poetry Slam Team.
Madison has always been a writer but she didn’t start competing until about two years ago when she made the team that competes at the Urban Spoken Word Poetry Slam at Genna’s Lounge which is held every third Saturday of the month. “The first year I didn’t travel, but this year I traveled with the team to Charlotte, [North Carolina], for the competition and did really well out there,” Madison says. “It was an amazing experience.”
Even though she loves the scene at Genna’s Lounge, the bar is not the best scene for the younger generation. “You want your kid to go out there and do his work and practice his craft, but do you want them to go out into the bar scene?” Madison asks.
“I wanted to create a space that was very inclusive of everybody… not just for adults or for people who were just out to drink,” she continues. “Inclusive of everybody — young, old, high school students to older people like Hippie Rick from Milwaukee.”
“Hippie Rick” is an older fella who performs in tie-dye and whose love of spoken word poetry proves that there truly are no age limits to the genre. It’s truly an intergenerational thing.
“We had parents who showed up at the Urban League [for the first Word is Bond Poetry Slam] who had never seen their kids slam,” Madison says. “They were seeing them for the first time. Those parents wouldn’t send their kids to slam at a place where there is alcohol served so we were happy to provide them with a space to see their kids.
“I like having the event at the Urban League because it’s a nice community feel,” she adds. “The Urban League is inviting to everybody… We do it in the big open area downstairs.”
But how did Madison get her stage name?
“My dad passed when I was 10 years old but he was very big into African American history and knowing facts off the top of his head. Frederick Douglas was one of his favorite folks and he had the quote, ‘There’s no progress without struggle,’” Madison says.
Her dad, she continues, always had struggles with cocaine and alcohol, but he always called his little daughters “his little progress.” “He would be going through whatever struggle but he would always say to my sister and I that we were his little progress. He was proud of us. We were what he did great. I really have held on to that nickname for a long time and when I started to really share my poetry I started to use it. People would say, ‘Hey, Miss Progress!’ That’s what they started to call me all the time and it just stuck.”
“Miss Progress” has grown to really love the power of spoken-word poetry. No topics are off-limits and it’s a safe space for people to share their most visceral thoughts and dreams that they would probably not ordinarily share.
“In my poetry, I will get up there and talk from the heart and talk about personal things in my life,” Madison says. “And when I’m done, somebody listening will come up to me and say, ‘Hey, it’s like you were telling my life story. I really needed to hear that! That inspired me to talk about things I normally wouldn’t talk about.’
“I’m very social, so spoken-word poetry was always a great fit for me,” she adds. “I love writing and I love sharing my work.”
Poets, writers, and the greater Madison-area community members alike are invited to come and see the Word is Bond Poetry Slam this weekend. Madison says that you won’t regret it.
“It’s a chance to see something fun that you might not normally see,” Madison says. “Spoken-word poetry is really growing. You might see a little bit of theater, some poetry, some quick wit, some rhyme, and some comedy. There will be great passion and inspiration. It’s an amazing time.”
Word is Bond Poetry Slam will be held Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Urban League of Greater Madison, 2222 S. Park Street. There will be free creative writing workshops from 5-6:30 p.m. Open Mic starts at 7 p.m.
Arrive early as the lists are expected to fill up fast. Cost: $3 for high school students w/ an ID, $5 general.