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Salt Lake City poetry legend RJ Walker features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Jan. 13

RJ Walker (Courtesy/ Sedona Poetry Slam. Photo by William Harris Photography)

RJ Walker (Courtesy/ Sedona Poetry Slam. Photo by William Harris Photography)

Originally Published: January 10, 2024 1:20 p.m.

With 2023 in the rear-view mirror and 2024 underway, the Sedona Poetry Slam enters its 16th year of performance poets bringing high-energy, competitive spoken word to the Mary D. Fisher Theatre starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13.

Between rounds, Salt Lake City spoken word powerhouse R.J. Walker will perform a featured set.

A poetry slam is like a series of high-energy, three-minute one-person plays, judged by the audience. Anyone can sign up to compete in the slam for the $75 grand prize and $25 second-place prize.

R.J. Walker

RJ Walker is a performance poet and voice actor from Salt Lake City, Utah. Walker has performed at the National Poetry Slam numerous times, representing Salt Lake City and Sugar House Utah. At the Individual World Poetry Slam he was a showcased poet on final stage and placed sixth overall at the 2017 Individual world poetry slam.

Walker won the NPS Spirit of the Slam award for organizing the first Compliment Deathmatch event. The next year he placed fourth at the National Poetry Slam with the Salt City Unified team.

He is a winner of the Button Poetry video contest. In Salt Lake City, Walker is the host and operator of The Greenhouse Effect Open Mic, SLC’s longest running open mic style event. Walker is a TEDX SLC speaker and was a keynote speaker for the League of Utah Writers’ Quills Conference.


(Courtesy/ Sedona Poetry Slam. Photo by Farris Gerard Photography)

Outside of poetry, Walker has narrated over 30 audiobooks, designed escape rooms, written murder mystery adventures, designed alternate reality games that take players on adventures through the urban exploration of Salt Lake City and written five produced plays for Salt Lake Community College, Wasatch Theatre Company and The Utah Arts Alliance. He is an Irene Ryan-nominated actor and an ACTF finalist in playwriting. He is also a runner up for the ACTF devised theatre competition.

Currently on the creative team for The Box theatre, Walker serves as a playwright in residence and is the executive director of Lords of Misrule Theatre Company which pioneers mutual-aid focused theatre arts.

Open Slam

To compete in the slam, poets will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted. The poets are judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam.

Slam poetry is an art form that allows written page poets to share their work alongside theatrical performers, hip-hop artists and lyricists. Poets come from as far away as Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, competing against adult poets from Sedona and Cottonwood, college poets from Northern Arizona University and youth poets from Sedona Red Rock High School. All types of poetry are welcome on the stage, from street-wise hip-hop and narrative performance poems, to political rants and introspective confessionals. Any poem is a "slam" poem if performed in a competition. All poets get three minutes per round to entertain and inspire the audience with their creativity.

Mary D. Fisher Theatre is located at 2030 W. SR 89A, Suite A-3, in West Sedona. Tickets are $12. For tickets, call 928-282-1177 or visit SedonaFilmFestival.org

The next poetry slams of the season will be held on Saturdays, Feb. 3; March 9; April 13, featuring Briana Grace Hammerstrom of Portland. Ore., by way of Flagstaff, May 11 and finally on June 8.

The prize money is funded in part by a donation from Verde Valley poetry supporters Jeanne and Jim Freeland.

Email FoxThePoet@Yahoo.com to sign up early to compete or by the Friday before the slam or at the door the day of the slam. Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

For more information, visit SedonaFilmFestival.com or FoxThePoet.BlogSpot.com For a full list of slam poetry events in Arizona, visit AZPoet.com

What is Poetry Slam?

Founded at the Green Mill Tavern in Chicago in 1984 by Marc Smith, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport designed to get people who would otherwise never go to a poetry reading excited about the art form when it becomes a high-energy competition. Poetry slams are judged by five randomly chosen members of the audience who assign numerical value to individual poets' contents and performances.

Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe. Slam poets have opened at the Winter Olympics, performed at the White House and at the United Nations General Assembly and were featured on ‘Russell Simmons' Def Poets’ on HBO.

Sedona has sent four-poet teams to represent the city at the National Poetry Slam in Charlotte, N.C., Boston, Cambridge, Mass., Oakland, Calif., Decatur, Ga., Denver and Chicago.