Austin Poetry Slam

Rocking the Mike goodbye

Mike Henry
Mike Henry (Photo courtesy of Rhonda Green)

The first decade of this millennium is coming to an end. Mike Henry knows that as well as you do, but you didn't spend that decade (and the half-decade before it) running the Austin Poetry Slam. No, that was Henry, the slam master, captaining and coaching teams to national prominence, hosting the local gigs week after week, moving the scene's epicenter from the old Electric Lounge (which he used to run) to Gaby & Mo's, to Ego's, to the ND at 501 Studios (which he currently runs).

Mike Henry did that for 15 years. He didn't start the Austin Slam – "You can blame Wammo for that," he says, adjusting his specs, grinning a flash of teeth into his scruffy face – and he's not going to, as if any single person could, end the Austin Slam. But time trudges on, and, as sure as 2010 is about to leave us, Mike Henry is stepping down: from the office of responsibility, from his poster-boy status, from being so completely steeped in the scene that he sweats verse from his pores whenever he sees a microphone.

After all, the man's got a popular venue to book and run; he's got a kid to raise; he's got a lot of other things clawing for his attention.

"After 15 years, it seemed like a good number," he told the appreciative crowd at his slam-fested farewell party at the ND on Dec. 15. "I feel like I've done my bit here. ... I mean, some people sit here thinking that the Magic Slam Elves come in the night and set all this shit up. And finally you're like, 'Let's get some new Magic Slam Elves,' 'cause these ones are tired."

The night was filled with performances in the big, gorgeously lit space, with scintillating pieces from new poets and old. "See?" said Henry from the stage. "The old school is in the house tonight. And the poets you think are old-school? The poets they think are old-school are here. Like, the poets that built the fuckin' school are here."

Henry didn't seem all that tired – he seemed revved up, as revved as the long roster of slam warriors who sent the standing-room-only audience into joyful paroxysms. But, yeah, he must've been tired, short-term and long-. And with good reason:

"Almost $75,000 in prize money has come out of the program," Henry told the crowd. "Seventy-five thousand dollars for poets who've come up and shared their work! We've been busy. National Poetry Slam, we did that three times, and each time we changed that shit; don't let anybody tell you different. We left it so much better than we found it. ... This community is amazing and life-changing. The thing I'm most proud of is that we have grown over all these years to be this family." He looked out into the crowd, nodding, beatific. "My family is here tonight."

And of course that family isn't going away – nor is Mike Henry, entirely. But there's a new year coming, and a new venue with it. The Austin Poetry Slam will rumble on, with new blood refueling the old, with the fresh and the well-seasoned sounding their cadenced yawps beneath the roofs of the world, with slam master Danny Strack riding herd, and all of it starting at the United States Art Authority on Tuesday, Jan. 11.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Austin Poetry Slam
Slam Sisters
Slam Sisters
The Women of the World Poetry Slam brings Austin a spoken-word contest that's about more than scores

Amy Gentry, March 21, 2014

All Over Creation: Unexpected Losses
All Over Creation: Unexpected Losses
Sudden deaths make us stop, but they should also make us think

Robert Faires, Feb. 10, 2012

More Mike Henry
We Built This City
We Built This City
On rock & roll venues opening up left, right, and especially east

Chase Hoffberger, Feb. 3, 2012

News/Print
News/Print
The All Poetry, All the Time Edition

Kimberley Jones, March 28, 2008

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
EAST 2018: Brenner’s Picks
EAST 2018: Brenner’s Picks
Our savvy arts reprobate has a few suggestions for you, comma, citizen

Nov. 15, 2018

Fabulous Realism at Atelier Dojo's Art Gym
Fabulous Realism at Atelier Dojo's Art Gym
Artists are ready to school you in their new studio at Canopy

Nov. 16, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Poetry Slam, Mike Henry, Wammo, Electric Lounge, Gaby & Mo's, Ego's, ND at 501 Studios

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle