Art of the Matter: All The Pretty Poets

Last Friday I went to the Women of the Phoenix Poetry Slam at Lawn Gnome Publishing on 5th Street. The five female poets were

Slam flyer courtesy of Lawn Gnome Publishing Facebook Slam flyer courtesy of Lawn Gnome Publishing Facebook

competing to see who would go on to represent Phoenix at the Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWPS) in Minneapolis, Minnesota March 6-9.

The competition was fierce, to say the least. All five poets, at some point in the competition, pulled a score of 10.

First, let me rewind and tell you a little about how the poetry slam works. The poets go on stage and perform a poem. They have three minutes and ten seconds, after which points are deducted as a part of a time penalty. Five random judges are selected from the audience and are to give the poets a score from 0.0 to 10.0. The highest and the lowest scores are dropped, then the rest are added up.

How these poets do it is beyond me. That’s a lot of pressure.

Yet, they did it, and they did it well.

The scores were so close throughout the slam that, by the end, I had no idea who was going to place where . . . though that may have also had something to do with my complete mathematical inability.

Nevertheless, the winner was 30-year-old, long-time poet, Rowie Shebala.

I had a chance to catch up with Rowie on Monday to talk with her about how it felt to win, and what she’s looking to get done before and at the competition.

Going into the competition, Rowie said she was very nervous.

“The day of I just tried to keep busy and not think about out, then after work I had to calm down and run through each of my poems,” she said, “I went into the competition knowing anything could happen.”

After winning, the excitement on Rowie’s face was visible from the back row. She hopped up on stage and dazzled the crowd once again with a victory poem.

“When I won I was like jumping up and down, totally excited,” Rowie said.

When asked about what she will be doing as far as fundraising for the trip, Rowie said, “Right now I’m going to try to start an account with, and I’m creating my own chapbook.”

Rowie said she started writing and performing poetry in 1997 when she was a sophomore in high school.  She wrote and performed a poem for a young politicians conference, and realized how much she enjoyed it.

Rowie said she pulls inspiration from personal experience, her friends and family, heartache and love, and her Native American heritage.

When asked about what she hopes to accomplish at the Women of the World Poetry Slam, Rowie said s

First place poet Rowie Shebala performing one of her poems. Photo by Alexandria Conrad First place poet Rowie Shebala performing one of her poems. Photo by Alexandria Conrad


has a few distinct goals.

“Right now I want to go over there and do the best I can and expose Phoenix, as well as being a Native American woman,” she said.

Rowie Shebala will be performing with Lawn Gnome owner Aaron Johnson at the Hollywood Alley in Tempe on January 15th at 8:00.

The second place poet, Joy Young, said she hopes to compete at WOWPS as well, either by entering as a storm poet, which means she will compete, just not as a representative from a city; or by competing for the Sedona spot at the Sedona Poetry Slam on February 16th.

In addition to this WOWPS qualifying Lawn Gnome Publishing hosts a poetry slam every Thursday at 8:00, as well as an array of other events throughout the week.


If you’d like to reach me with comments, concerns, or suggestions, you can email me at or tweet me at @alliectersely


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