Allison Broeren Changemakers: Giving voice to women by bringing the Women of the World Poetry Slam to the Twin Cities
Photo courtesy of Allison Broeren
"When we can really become a community of strong women together, we can help support each other and we can help lift each other up in different ways." - Allison Broeren
by Jennifer Thaney
Allison Broeren is a woman of many words - so many, in fact, that for three days last spring she facilitated nearly round-the-clock programming for those attending the sixth annual Women of the World Poetry Slam from March 6 to 9 in Minneapolis.
As host city director of the national-level tournament dedicated to showcasing women's voices, Broeren attracted 72 participants from the United States, Canada and even New Zealand - to compete in the art of spoken word. A slammer herself, Broeren knew the Twin Cities was supportive of performing arts and thought people would be willing to try something new.
She was right. A total of more than 1,000 people turned out for events that took place at Kieran's Irish Pub, the Institute of Production and Recording, and Aria at Jeune Lune. Individual poets competed in two preliminary bouts, performing one-, two-, three- and four-minute poems. Audience members were chosen as judges, ranking each poem from zero to 10. The top 12 voter-getters advanced to the finals on Friday night.
Four Minnesota women qualified to compete in this year's slam championship: Anna Binkovitz, Sierra DeMulder, Cynthia French and Kate Rokowski. Denice Frohman of Philadelphia was voted the top slammer.
Describing the event as more like a festival, Broeren said many women travel to the Women of the World Poetry Slam to celebrate womanhood in general.
"It gives voice to a lot of women in different ways that they are looking for," she said. "There is a feeling of community and shared experiences that you don't necessarily get at the larger tournaments."
On one of the websites she maintains, Broeren states that anyone who lives life as a woman is welcome at Women of the World Poetry Slam events. Because members of the transgendered community often get overlooked, it is important to provide a safe and welcoming environment for them, Broeren said.
"When we can really become a community of strong women together, we can help support each other and we can help lift each other up in different ways," she said. "There are so many women looking for a community that they can be a part of. ... To be able to provide that space for people was one of the proudest moments of my life."
It was also a ton of work, Broeren admitted. "But it's all worth it at the end of the day," she said.
Broeren is no stranger to hard work. When she isn't teaching business classes at a local university, Broeren runs Word Sprout, a spoken-word production company that offers monthly poetry slams, story slams, open mic nights and The Encyclopedia Show - which is a melding of art and historical fact. Held on Tuesday nights at Kieran's Irish Pub, the shows rotate on a monthly basis.
"I just like meshing it all together," Broeren said. "It's a part of me that I need to do, because I don't think I could be a complete, functional human being without [it]."
BE A CHANGEMAKER:
Although next year's Women of the World Poetry Slam will be held in Austin, Texas, there are ways to get involved in local spoken-word competitions as performers, audience members, judges or volunteers. Come to a competition and stay afterward to talk to the host if interested in future involvement. For a list of events and schedules, visit www.wordsprout.org and www.slammn.org.
Winners of competitions receive money and other prizes; those who want to help financially can donate at these websites. Businesses may also sponsor events.
Readers can also support women artists by listening to them perform online at sites like www.buttonpoetry.com.