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Playing to the Crowd 

The word is not dead

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If anyone out there is harboring suspicions that the word is dead, the Living Word Project's "Second Sundays" season kickoff should blow you out of the water. The series is going into its second year at the Justice League stronger than ever. Named the best open mike and poetry slam in the Bay Area by that other alternative weekly, "Second Sundays" has featured musical and visual artists along with its stock in trade -- the wordmongers and oral athletes who populate any slam. For those who've missed the buzz, a slam is no sedate, ordinary poetry reading; it's a competition in which the jeers and cheers of the audience decide who takes the prize, and who gets slammed.

The series kickoff features a special appearance by L.A. import Saul Williams, whose starring role in the 1998 feature film Slam (which took the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and the Golden Camera Award at Cannes) made him the closest thing the poetry world has to a rock star. Lately Williams has been mixing up his verbal stylings with the sounds of a seven-piece ensemble, and the "Second Sundays" performance should showcase offerings from his forthcoming CD OmNiaMerican. But the poet is no newcomer to the music world. As a musician and rapper, Williams has performed with the Fugees, Erykah Badu, KRS-1, and De La Soul. He has also provided music to back up other poets, including the late Allen Ginsberg.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph, a veteran of San Francisco's national championship poetry slam team, will host the event. Proceeds go to youth-centered programming at the Literary Arts Center at the Box Factory, opening this fall at 2169 Folsom. Word up.

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