Darrion Narine taking part in the virtual auditions.

The 2021 First Citizens National Poetry Slam audition round is totally virtual. The Zoom platform has become the new audition stage for poets across the country entering the largest spoken word challenge in the Caribbean.

With the last round of auditions held on Saturday, the Slam, now in its ninth year, returns to prove that Poetry is Resilience with its usual $50,000 first place prize up for grabs under the proud sponsorship of First Citizens. It remains one of the highest value awards for spoken word artists in the world, and a testament to the light-bearer role of artistes in the pandemic.

Communications expert Denise Demming, Arielle John, spoken word artist, comedian Kwame Weekes, president of the Circle of Poets Nicholas Sosa, and Marge Blackman, singer/songwriter, were the judges for the audition.

In 2020, the First Citizens National Poetry Slam (FCNPS) auditions occurred in four locations across the country and in Tobago, before the COVID-19 pandemic halted physical events. The semifinals and finals were televised and broadcast to the public for free. This year, adhering to lockdown restrictions, participants registered for individual time slots to perform their audition pieces in real time.

Title sponsor First Citizens and Slam producer The Bocas Lit Fest will partner with TTT, as part of its thrust to showcase quality local programming, to broadcast the next stages of this year’s Slam on television and via livestream on their Facebook page.

The semifinals are set to air on August 22 and 28, and the final is scheduled for October.

The 2021 theme Poetry is Resilience plays on the idea of artistes and art enduring and finding new ways to exist through the pandemic and explores new definitions of poetry with existing audiences and with those new to the art form. As a pioneering, fully virtual event, this year’s slam demonstrates resilience in the face of the pandemic.

Professor Sterling Frost, Deputy CEO—Operations & Administration of First Citizens, shared that “First Citizens remains a proud partner of the Bocas Lit Fest, having worked together for almost a decade to build what has undoubtedly become the premier poetry event on our local calendar. We congratulate the Bocas committee for aptly demonstrating their own resilience, by embracing the opportunity to forge a new paradigm for the event, with this completely virtual 2021 edition.”

Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown acknowledged the continued dedication to spoken word as a platform for social change. “From 2013 to now, despite changing circumstances, settings, and format, one thing has never changed—the quality of the artistry of the participants in the annual Slam. We’re very happy that it’s still growing and has proven sustainable despite the pandemic’s uncertainty, with the support of our poets and artist community, and the backing of First Citizens.”

• For more information, visit www.bocaslitfest.com/youth/poetry-slam/ or the National Poetry Slam FacebookInstagram and Twitter pages – @nationalpoetryslamtt.