SALT LAKE CITY — By the time her team arrived at last summer’s National Poetry Slam in Georgia, Dorothy McGinnis already had much to celebrate. First, she’d beaten a number of older, more experienced artists to secure her spot on the team representing Salt Lake City. Then, by helping win designated poetry slams, she and her team ensured they would be eligible to perform at the NPS and compete for a national title.
And the first day of competition was her 18th birthday.
“I felt very out of my element, out of my league,” McGinnis said, adding that she was the youngest person in the competition. “It was shocking and jarring to be among seasoned artists, (so) to get really positive feedback from people was very shocking.”
And McGinnis, now 19, is headed to the NPS again this year as part of Salt Lake City’s first all-female team. She will be in Denver from Aug. 7-12 with the three other women on the Sugar Slam, where they’ll perform their original poetry as a group.
A poet is born
McGinnis was born and raised in Salt Lake City, where an eighth-grade teacher first used YouTube to introduced her to slam poetry — “a type of competition where people read their poems without props, costumes or music,” according to powerpoetry.org.
“And I (thought), ‘This is so tight! This is what I want to do!’” she said. “So I did little baby slam poems about my breakup at the time, and then I just thought of myself as a slam poet but never did anything.”
That changed when, as a junior at Skyline High School, a theater teacher, who was also a slam poet, got McGinnis involved with the Salt Lake City slam poetry scene.
Slam poetry competitions are typically held in bouts, where performers receive points for things like delivery and strong writing. In the case of the Sugar Slam — which was founded by poet Willy Palomo as Voiceboxers in 2012 and was renamed Sugar Slam in 2015 — performers have to be one of the four or five highest scorers during the approximately nine-month season to qualify for the Sugar Slam’s NPS team, and they must earn their spot on the team each year.
According to Poetry Slam, Inc. (which runs the NPS), slam teams must win two slams at approved venues before…