Before he stepped onto the low cement wall, which served as a makeshift stage, Nick Marino, 27, could be seen behind a row of bushes practicing the words he was about to share. Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt and a ball cap that read, “Live with purpose,” Marino stood up in front of a crowd at Kylde Warren Park, for his second time performing slam poetry, to declare his mother a warrior. His poem, “Beautiful,” about his mom who suffered a stroke three years ago, echoed through the park.
“You may never realize that there’s flowers growing inside of you, on the verge of blooming everyday from the joy that you give this world,” recited Marino. “And every day that the sun shines, know that you are the reason that your son wants to shine,”
The Dallas Poetry Slam Organization held its first Poetry Under the Stars event Oct. 18 in Klyde Warren Park. The event began at 6 p.m. and may have been more suitably named “Poetry at Sunset,” because the real stars were on stage.
Atop the freeway and surrounded by the Dallas skyline, kids played soccer as families, friends and couples arrived to spread out blankets and chairs on the crowded lawn. Music blasted from a DJ booth next to the stage as event performers and volunteers wandered the park wearing Dallas Poetry Slam T-shirts. At the start of the event, audience members searched to find empty space on the grass.
The Dallas Poetry Slam Organization, established in 1994, is a non-profit that promotes poetry and literary engagement in the DFW area. Members of the organization compete in national poetry slam competitions. The team won the National Poetry Slam in 2001. The group, which also partners with the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, can usually be found hosting open mic nights every Friday at Heroes Lounge on Greenville Avenue.
Sherrie “Candy” Zantea, The Dallas Poetry Slam Organization’s director and Slam Master, coordinated and emceed the event in the hopes of allowing Dallasites to see into a world that has remained relatively underground.
“Dallas is really big on music, you know they support their music scene a lot,” Zantea said. “So I think this will open up a big door for any writers, authors, the poets to just kind of be seen, be heard, give us exposure, so our city can support us like the New York poets are being supported, like the California poets get supported. The southern poets don’t get that support.”
Marino opened the show by pointing out his mother, Terri Marino, and explaining that her birthday was coming up next week, and the week after will celebrate World Stroke Day. Before going on stage, he handed tissues to his mom.
“You guys may need this,” he said.
The poem came to him in the days leading up to the slam, although it was not as easy as writing for his first performance in August.
“It was tough finding those right words,” Marino said
After sitting in the park for several hours one evening, the venue became his ultimate inspiration.
“It was a beautiful night and all of a sudden the words started coming out,” Marino said.
A photo posted by Nick Marino Jr. (@thatsjustnick) on Oct 24, 2015 at 1:26pm PDT
Before he began writing poetry he was interested in the medium and enjoyed watching shows like “Def Jam Poetry” and “Brave New Voices.”
“I’ve always loved spoken word poetry, and you know, I was like I need to start writing,” Marino said.
He was first introduced to The Dallas Poetry Slam Organization when he asked them to perform at one of his philanthropy events. Marino is the Director of Social Change at TangoTab, a dining app with a one-for-one model, which allows restaurant goers to eat a meal and also provide one for someone in need.
Although he is also an avid public speaker, Marino was a little bit nervous for how his poem would be received.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever I do and if they like it, they like it, if they don’t, they don’t,” Marino said. “But I think they liked it.”
Marino’s poem did indeed stand out to event goers.
“I cried a few times,” event attendee Wendy Scheu said.
About 1,000 people attended the event for which social media played a huge role. What later became over 2,000 RSVPs on Facebook started out as 200 invitations, Zantea said. Even the number of interested performers was too many for the two-hour time slot, and poets who were not able to perform at the October event will be automatically listed to perform later in the year.
When the park first contacted Zantea about hosting a poetry event, she was skeptical about how their work would be received in such a family setting. But with only four weeks to plan, she agreed to give it a shot.
“I was like you know what, it could work but I’ve got to see the location,” Zantea said.
That location changed several times before ending up on the lawn across from the restaurant Savor.
Poem topics ranged from a father’s relationship with his son, to illness, to cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Even a poem about Walmart was featured in the show.
“I was amazed by the creativity,” Scheu said. “I was out of words.”
“All I ever want is for me as a poet to speak to the masses in front of the other poets, to be heard, and this accomplished that,” Zantea said.
After a successful first event, The Dallas Poetry Slam Organization will host a second Poetry Under the Stars event Nov. 15 on the main stage in Klyde Warren Park. Marino will perform again in November.
“This was epic,” Zantea said. “We made history tonight.”