A War Of The Words Hits Home: Women Of The World Bout It Out In Burque

Women Of The World Bout It Out In Burque

Mark Fischer
5 min read
A War of the Words Hits Home
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In a sold-out scene last December at the Outpost, Mercedez Holtry brought the room to a whirlwind of applause as she belted out her final slam poem of the night. As she walked off the stage, the judges, randomly selected from the audience, raised their scorecards. A row of top scores appeared, including a couple of perfect 10s. Holtry had just won the Albuquerque Women of the World Poetry Slam. In that moment, she became the first poet in Burque history to make both the city team and the college team plus win the ABQ WOW title and the title of Best Slam Poet in ABQ all in the same year.

Since that night Holtry has been preparing to battle all comers on her home turf. “Being the hometown WOW Poet is an opportunity for me to share the stories of the women of Albuquerque with the world,” says Holtry, “the struggle and the beauty.” She’s ready to hold it down for Burque as we host the 8th international Women of the World Poetry Slam championship this week, March 18-21.

Holtry and 71 of the top women and woman-identified poets from across the US as well as Israel and New Zealand will duke it out in the Duke City over four days of competition for the title of Women of the World Poetry Slam champion 2015.

It wasn’t easy to bring the WOW championship to ABQ. It took two years of hard work to put in a bid and prove our fair city legit. It all started at the 2013 WOW championship when our ABQ WOW poet Jasmine Sena y Cuffee saw the number five in the marbled floor tile of her hotel room while doing her pre-slam ritual of running poems in a steaming hot shower. “In numerology, five vibrates with the highest frequency, and it gave me confidence,” she tells me. “I remembered my first slam at 15, how well we hosted National Poetry Slam 2005—I even drew fifth in the slam that night—and I realized I wanted the 505 to host WOWPS in 2015.”

She won the bid and put together “Las Chingonas,” an expert team of powerful poets and PR women to bring this festival to fruition. For the last year, Sena y Cuffee, ABQ Poet Laureate Jessica Helen Lopez, Erin Northern and Amanda Sutton, along with webmistress Katrina Guarascio, have created what promises to be the most inclusive and celebratory WOW in history. “WOW is a national platform for women’s voices,” says Lopez, “voices for social justice on a wide spectrum. The competition piques interest and brings the community to hear these messages.”

In case you’ve been trapped in a secret bunker on Kirtland Air Force Base for a couple decades, poetry slam is the art of competitive performance poetry created in the 1980s by Chicago construction worker Marc Smith, who was tired of going to poetry readings and listening to poets babble on forever with their noses in their notebooks. In a slam, poets get up on stage and perform their poems with a time limit from one to four minutes. Afterward they’re immediately judged, Olympic-style, by five randomly chosen audience members. Those with the lowest score get the boot, while the last one standing gets the booty and the bragging rights.

WOWPS kicks off with the Last Chance Slam Wednesday night at Stereo Bar (622 Central SW). Twelve poets from across the country will vie for the final spot in the tournament. Thursday and Friday events are happening all day, from yoga at 9am until the bars close at 2am. Several venues will host daytime workshops and readings with prominent local poets and educators to get you in the poetic mood.

Evenings are designated battle hours with two bouts each night at Tricklock Performance Laboratory (110 Gold SW), Flying Star Downtown (723 Silver SW) and Stereo Bar. Following competition, both nights offer party time with night-owl events like the Dirty Haiku Deathmatch and Erotica reading, Her-Larious! humor reading and the Lit Slam. You can also take in the Love of Music showcase where some of your favorite local women musicians pair up with WOW poets in an improvisational setting. You just might find yourself sipping wine and wooing your poet crush or slamming tequila shots and starting a cipher circle with the women who just blew your mind onstage.

Saturday night is finals where the top 12 women command the stage at the historic KiMo Theatre (423 Central NW). The competition will be intense, the love overflowing, and the words might just change your life. After the champion is crowned, join the after-party at Tractor Brewery Wells Park (1800 Fourth Street NW). A festival pass (
holdmyticket.com) gets you into all the events you can handle. If you’re feeling lucky, you can also go a la carte to any event but you might find yourself out on the street with your face up against the glass if they reach capacity. Check the Alibi events calendar in the paper or online, and plan your strategy.

This is your chance to experience the top shelf of spoken word poetry. Come listen to and meet some of the most powerful women in the world this week. The competition will be fierce, and with Mercedez Holtry waving our flag, you can be damn sure it won’t just be our chile bringing the heat. Check out
wowps2015.com for all the details.

Women of the World Poetry Slam

Wednesday, March 18 through Saturday, March 21, various times

See wowps2015.com for complete schedule


Last Chance Slam, 8pm and opening party, 11pm at Stereo Bar (622 Central SW)


Preliminary Bouts 7 and 9pm at Stereo Bar (622 Central SW), Flying Star (723 Silver SW) and Tricklock Performance Laboratory (110 Gold SW)


Preliminary Bouts, 7 and 9pm at Stereo Bar (622 Central SW), Flying Star (723 Silver SW) and Tricklock Performance Laboratory (110 Gold SW)


Women of the World Poetry Slam Finals, 7pm at KiMo Theatre (423 Central NW)

WOWPS 2015 After Party, 10:30pm at Tractor Brewing Wells Park (1800 Fourth Street NW)

Tickets: $7 each preliminary bout and night-owl event at the door; $20-$25 Finals tickets, $50 festival pass


A War of the Words Hits Home

ABQ Poet Laureate and WOW poet Jessica Helen Lopez

Mariah Bottomly

A War of the Words Hits Home

WOW poet Jasmine Sena y Cuffee

Richard Malcolm

A War of the Words Hits Home

Michelle Thornton

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