Fayetteville has a thriving poetry community, and what better way to show that off than with a poetry slam team. The team is a group of poets who compete in poetry slam competitions. These competitions involve poets performing their original work in front of a live audience and a panel of judges who score the performances.
The Detour Slam Team has been making waves in the community with their powerful performances. Their unique style and passionate delivery have earned them a loyal following. Now Fayetteville's own poetry slam team will be competing at the Southern Fried Poetry Competition June 7-10 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The Detour Slam Team was founded in 2019 by LeJuane “El’Ja” Bowens. That year, the team was ranked in 11th place in the Southern Fried Poetry Festival. It was supposed to be a one-time thing since the competition was taking place in Fayetteville, but Bowens said that the reception was so big, they decided to continue.
In 2021, the competition went international since it was virtual. The Detour Slam Team ranked in 10th place. There are five local poets who will be competing this year. The team consists of Keith Sowell, Amanda Bullard, Nick Courmon, Shenika Whitfield and Letitia Brown.
This is the first year Sowell has been part of the slam team. He said that despite being born and raised in Fayetteville, he only heard about the poetry scene in that last year. He told Up & Coming Weekly that once he started to integrate into the community, he had to try out for the team and he got in.
“Being a poet in Fayetteville feels like being a part of a close-knit community that appreciates your creativity, passion and emotions. As an artist, you really don’t get that everywhere, so to constantly have that affirmation is a blessing,” Sowell said.
“I started my poetic journey here at Gray’s Creek High School back in 2015 when two teachers and a class of students initiated a team. Seeing all the pockets of poetry manifest and grow in Fayetteville over the past few years is inspiring!”
Bowens says the slam team has been invited to several community events to perform. He says it’s been rewarding to see so many people embrace the slam team.
“It definitely is a blessing and a humble moment to see that happen not only for myself but for the team members as well,” Bowens said.
Sowell says he is beyond excited to attend the Southern Fried Poetry Competition this year.
“I can be a very competitive person. So when put in a space with other poets that can challenge me, I believe I’ll be at my best as a performer and storyteller. That is only heightened when I get with a team of people who also take the craft seriously, like my teammates!”
The team is selling a small collection of their poetry for $10. The poems in this collection deal with stories that will take you on a journey of direction within life; both physically and emotionally. People can buy the book at https://bit.ly/413MZc8.
They are asking for donations to help cover the team’s hotel accommodations, rental, gas and food expenses. Their goal is $5,000. To help out, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/detourslam2023.