With the rising popularity of spoken word and the rapid emergence of subgenres in poetry, the Great Publishing Company is presenting the National Underground Spoken Word & Poetry Awards (NUSPA) to honor the often unnoticed work of poets around the country.

Deemed “the Grammys for poets,” NUSPA seeks to bring recognition to written and spoken word by rewarding artists for their work that may or may not have been published. This year the event takes place May 1 at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C.

“We award poets for their efforts in 13 categories,” said NUSPA’s founder, KaNikki J. Mix. “We have numerous people getting together to nominate the poets and then the fans vote on the nominees for us to get the winners.”

While the art of spoken word is relatively new, it emerged onto the national stage in shows like HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” and “Brave New Voices.” Still, while the genre has been acknowledged as a legitimate form of poetry, many of its artists go unrecognized.

“Spoken word is becoming a new genre,” Mix said. “People know about poetry, but they don’t really know about the spoken word aspect of it. We have poets that travel and perform for a living. It’s important that the community gets together and awards these artists for what they’ve been doing.”

NUSPA originally began as the Pen Point Ball, which was held in Maryland in 2003. This event brought together poets from across the country to celebrate poetry and its impact in their communities. Due to the popularity of the event, creators promised fans an annual event spotlighting poetry and the growing emergence of spoken word.

In 2005, the first NUSPA was held in Forestville, Md. During this event, 22 venues in various states across the United States participated in the nominations for 19 categories. The event continued to grow in popularity thereafter, becoming one of the most anticipated and talked about events in the poetry community. Additionally, many artists have been published and tapped into self-publishing through NUSPA and the Great Publishing Company.

For the future, Mix hopes to expand the event outside of the District, beginning with Virginia and, perhaps, North Carolina and highlight the many talented artists who may not have had the ability to participate and attend previous events.

“We plan to move around the country. They have a national poetry slam competition and they move it around every year, so we plan to do that with NUSPA to make sure that all the poets are able to attend and not have to come to this area all the time.”

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor