In the Shadow of the Mic: Three Decades of Slam Poetry in Pittsburgh celebrates the history, culture, and community of the Steel City Slam, from its founding in the early ’90s to present day. In this collection, editors Jesse Welch and PEN America Literary Award–winning writer Adriana E. Ramírez present twenty-nine poems from thirty spoken word artists, including Stacey Waite, Davon Clark, and Leslie Ezra Smith, who are representative of the life and breadth of three decades of competitive slam poetry in Pittsburgh. Each poem is a deep dive into the individual, the collective, the city, and the spirit of the slam. Interviews with founder Christina Springer, Slammaster D.J. Brewer, and the Shadow Lounge owner Justin Strong tell the origin of Pittsburgh’s slam poetry movement, the highs and lows in the slam’s storied past, and their unique roles in creating a space for budding and established spoken word artists. Every city has its own style, and Pittsburgh’s, simultaneously blue collar and deeply academic, is uniquely ours.
JESSE WELCH is a poet, father, and untalented juggler. He is the co-founder and host of the Nasty Slam, Pittsburgh’s head-to-head deathmatch slam. He has competed at the National Poetry Slam for Chicago, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. He has been performing his poetry since he was twelve years old and appears in the award-winning documentary Louder Than A Bomb.
ADRIANA E. RAMIREZ is an award-winning nonfiction writer and poet. She founded Pittsburgh’s infamous Nasty Slam, co-founded the Pittsburgh Poetry Collective, and was the Slammaster for the Steel City Slam from 2006 to 2016. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, ESPN’s The Undefeated, Literary Hub, and Guernica. She won the PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize in 2015 for her nonfiction novella Dead Boys (2016, Little A). Her first full-length work of nonfiction, The Violence, is forthcoming from Scribner.
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