Last week, Boston mayor Marty Walsh announced that a task force has been assembled to to find the city’s second-ever poet laureate. After six successful years in the position, Sam Cornish will be relinquishing his seat to a newcomer, and this is a perfect opportunity to inject some youth, vigor, and innovation into position.
Who better to do this than the city’s foremost slam poet?
City Hall’s press release qualifies that the poet laureate should serve poetry by “raising the status of poetry in the everyday consciousness of Bostonians, acting as an advocate for poetry, language and the arts, and creating a unique artistic legacy through public readings and civic events.” From this, it seems like Walsh’s camp are specifically describing Boston Poetry Slam slammaster Simone Beaubien.
As the chief ambassador of one of the nation’s most renowned poetry slams, Beaubien is one of the most public-facing poets working in the city. In her weekly gathering at the Cantab Lounge, she hosts packed rooms of poetry lovers – many of whom are still experimenting with the idea of poetry. Twice in the past three years, she has singlehandedly brought the National Poetry Slam (and with it, tens of thousands of the most Internet-ready young poets) to the Boston area, and twice it was a heralded record-breaker.
Beaubien’s commitment to popularizing slam is unflinching. Beyond her hosting duties, she is also the booking agent, publicist, webmaster, and coach for the Boston Poetry Slam, she’s been the jack-of-all-trades for poetry’s most modern incarnation. Her resume reads like an instructional guide to resurrecting a dead art.
Though many treat slam poetry as a faction rather than an evolutionary branch, it can’t be denied that performance-based poetry is the most visible incarnation of the art today. In Beaubien’s hands, Boston poetry is not a dusty tome – it is a vibrant, seething community of folks cycling their energy through the audience. It’s what nurtures the existing scene while simultaneously reaching more and more young writers, growing an art form that has been stunted by textbooks and decades of old-fogey reluctance to adapt.
Boston is not only ready to host a slam poet as our laureate, we’re primed for it. Beaubien has been grinding for years to make the Hub a better city for the written and spoken word, and it’s time she gets the recognition she deserves.
[Photo credit: Marshall Goff]