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October 25, 2014

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Las Vegas slam poetry team is underdog success at national championships

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Battle Born Slam

Vogue Robinson, pictured here during a performance, is a member of the local poetry slam team Battle Born Slam. The group will represent Las Vegas at the National Poetry Slam Championships in Boston from Aug. 13-17, 2013.

Battle Born Slam

Nathan Say, pictured here during a performance, is a member of local poetry slam team Battle Born Slam. The group will represent Las Vegas at the National Poetry Slam Championships in Boston from Aug. 13-17, 2013. Launch slideshow »

When Las Vegas’ Battle Born Slam poetry team headed to the National Slam Poetry Championships in Boston this month, they hoped simply to make it past the first round. Instead, they returned as the competition’s buzz-worthy underdog success.

After a week of increasingly high-stakes bouts with teams from across North America and Europe, Battle Born emerged with Las Vegas’ highest ranking yet in its 12-year history at the competition, placing 24th overall out of 72 teams competing.

The ranking marks a significant leap from last year’s placement of 41 and was just four slots short of their goal of making it into the Top 20 and qualifying for semifinals.

Battle Born also made it into the Group Piece Top 10 finals competition for the first time, a success team coach A.J. Moyer credits largely to the strength of a duet piece, “Pretty City,” performed by team members Kari O’Connor and Vogue Robinson.

Moyer says that while the group was disappointed to miss the semifinals by such a narrow margin, they’re proud to have come so far at the competition in just a year’s time.

“Everybody was shocked and really excited. After the first night when we came in first in our bout, we knew we had a chance to make something. We were right on Albuquerque's heels the whole time, and they’re the perennial winners,” Moyer says. “Making group finals was big. It was our first time competing on any finals stage, and I think people really took notice.”

More than winning trophies or bragging rights, turning heads was the team’s underlying goal — proving that Las Vegas is more than the stigma of neon and debauchery they had faced at nationals in the past.

“In the past, people just didn’t take us seriously when they heard we were from Vegas. This year, a host of a slam podcast at the competition echoed what I kept hearing in the audience, which was ‘I had no idea who Battle Born were, and I was completely blown away,’” Moyer says. “People definitely took us seriously and came away with an attitude that the art scene here is legit and something they want to see. We got a lot of people — well-known, nationally recognized slam poets — really psyched about coming through here on tours and featuring at our events. That’s huge for us.”

In the meantime, the team is already busy working on new pieces and applying new skills from workshops and seminars they attended during competition week. Moyer says they’re less concerned about how they place next year than about staying focused on improving their writing and their role in Las Vegas’ arts community.

“We’re hoping more success at nationals comes as a byproduct of that. We’ve definitely got a good jumping-off point for that considering how things went this year,” he says. “We came away with the attitude that this is a chance to improve and make things better for the next competition season. Everyone is really energized.”

Battle Born Slam will host its next poetry slam and open-mic night on Monday, Sept. 7, at the Learning Village, 715 E. Fremont St.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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