Mere mortals would tie their tongue in knots if they tried to hit the words as fast and accurately as Fabian Navarro.

Mercedes me Store Hamburg: sizzling poetry slam.

Hamburg invited the nation’s best poetry slammers to battle it out at the city’s Mercedes me Store.

Photos: Lukasz Wolejko-Wolejszo
Text: Daniela Guday
  • Mercedes me Store Hamburg: sizzling poetry slam.

  • A question of lesser importance when the prize, the bottle of whiskey.

    Poetry Slam. An art form.

    Invented in 1980s Chicago, the splicing of literature, poetry and rhythm is no longer a fleeting trend, but a globally renowned art form with countless of fierce aficionados. Across the Atlantic, in Germany, Hamburg has become a thriving hub of the spoken word movement. Located on the banks of Hamburg’s Alster lake, the Mercedes me Store has become a fixture on the city’s cultural circuit with its varied and vibrant blend of art events, after work parties or live gigs – the latter including a prime performance by spine-tingling singer-songwriter Alexa Feser.

    Applause as benchmark.

    Among the venue’s highlights: its first ever poetry slam, hosted by poet and “Kampf der Künste” (battle of the arts) presenter Michel Abdollahi. Fresh from presenting the poetry slam finals at the Deutsche Schauspielhaus, the integral player of the thriving scene challenged Germany’s top four slammers to show their skills and impress the enthusiastic audience assembled at the Mercedes me Store.

    Fired up by the response, Franziska Holzhammer, Mona Harry, Fabian Navarro and David Friedrich battled for the audience’s approval.

    Fired up by the response, Franziska Holzhammer, Mona Harry, Fabian Navarro and David Friedrich battled for the audience’s approval and – in time-honoured tradition – not only fame and fortune, but also a bottle of decent whiskey. Here, the winner is determined by the level of applause or, more precisely, the scoring of skills.

    While guests soon found themselves fighting for advantageous spots in the crammed venue, the backstage mood was more laid-back.

    The Slamily.

    While guests soon found themselves fighting for advantageous spots in the crammed venue, the backstage mood was more laid-back. Although slammers “battle” each other on stage, a lot of these modern-day poets are friends, brought together by countless events and joined by social media channels as a slamily – the self-deprecating, yet affectionate term for this gathering of kindred souls. Mere mortals would tie their tongue in knots if they tried to hit the words as fast and accurately as Fabian Navarro. Now in his mid-twenties, the acting Schleswig-Holstein champion has already published several books.

    Mona Harry is a student.

    What inspires your writing?

    “I find inspiration in books, films, the lyrics of other slammers and everyday situations. It would be nice, though, to know what works best – then I wouldn’t have to experiment this much”, tells Fabian. Off-stage, Mona Harry is a student. A successful poetry slam participant since 2011, she once again managed to enchant the audience in her allotted ten-minute timeslot.

    What Mona Harry brought to slamming in the first place: “When someone showed me a poetry slam video on YouTube, I simply loved the format. Half a year later, I attended my first slam and got so inspired that I decided to try my luck on stage the very next week.”

    German Championship finalist Franziska Holzheimer.

    Phantom-Thinking.

    German Championship finalist Franziska Holzheimer has already taken her skills to Egypt (for the Goethe Institute) and India (for the German Book Office). To the question, from where she could reveal some of her inspirations, she can’t answer: “I have never quite known how to answer that – I assume that inspiration is a phantom invented by non-creative souls to explain creative people!”

    David Friedrich has been treading the slam stage since he was 15. In 2013, he published the book Bunt und Kühl (Colourful and Cool) together with Kaleb Erdmann and Thomas Spitzer.

    Creative word play.

    With the evening drawing to a close, strained minds meet beaming faces. After all, a poetry slam is far more than easy entertainment – the slammers challenge their audience with creative word play, profound thoughts and sharp dissections of contemporary culture. So, who came out tops in the end? A question of lesser importance when the prize, the bottle of whiskey, seems predestined for sharing backstage by all … A huge thank you to all the participating poetry slammers and the Mercedes me store!

    David Friedrich has been treading the slam stage since he was 15.

    Related.