Slamming Bricks 2023
Avalon Theatre • Grand Junction, Colorado • September 9, 2023
by Liz Weiss
Standing in front of the historic Avalon building, marquee lit up with Slamming Bricks regalia, all I could think was how lucky I was five years ago to be asked to be a part of this journey.
I am not a poet, but Caleb Ferganchick is a damn good one, and it was one night over some cocktails at Charlie’s, that this competition came to be, with the support of bar owner and local ally, Liz Sinclair. The crescendo to this event is a new space and a larger audience, including our younger community members, who got to come and be a part of this liberation movement, the largest of its kind in the four-corners area.
As I waited in the lobby, once it was time to open the doors, I saw a sea of all the friendly faces who had been coming devotedly every year since the first event at Charlie Dwellington’s, as well as people who attended for their first time last year, excited to see what changes were in store this year. Once the seats were filled and the lights went out, the audience dove right into the evening with an incredibly moving ten-minute documentary by Fruita cinematographer, Rachel DeWeber, featuring the brain child of Slamming Bricks highlighting his journey with all of these incredible poets over the years.
Drag Queen and local celeb Stella Van Dyke entered stage right, setting some house rules and warming up the crowd, then without delay the poets fiercely took the stage. Many poets were returning from years previous, and there were also some new heavy hitters like Tempest Juliet, hailing from Arizona, and local poets Kendra Clark and my book-club buddy, Heather Nicholson. Everyone brought their A game, and it was obvious by the reactions to the judges’ sometimes unsavory scores, that everyone in the building was fully invested in the words and sheer bravery of these incredible people baring their souls on stage.
After a brief intermission, Emilie Stickley of Joke Junction took the stage and brought a much-needed bout of laughter, touching on her issues with being a Pisces, struggling with being a luscious emotional queen, and living her best polyamorous life. If you get a chance to see her stand-up around town, do NOT miss out.
The rounds continued until only three were left standing, newcomer Tempest Juliet, and long-time Slamming Bricks veterans Charles Telschow and Brianna Hammerstrom. Before crowning a winner, both returning winners, Mackenzie Benanati, winner of the 2019 trophy, and Aerik Francis, last year’s champion, took the stage one last time.
The competition was so intense and so close, but in the end, crowd favorite Charles Telschow took first. As the placing competitors stood onstage with their trophies designed by Corey Spurlock, surrounded by their fellow competing poets, it was bittersweet seeing this event’s climax and wondering who could ever fill Caleb’s shoes after he makes his exit from the Grand Valley to explore new scenery and new opportunities in Albuquerque, NM.
I couldn’t be prouder of what my friend has created, or more grateful to have been lucky enough to be included alongside the rest of the cast. Together, we have helped carry Caleb’s dream of providing a safe space for people like Pepper Ruzin of Palisade to find the courage to share the struggles of how hard life can be, not feeling at home in your own body or comfortable enough to embrace who you really are in this world. ◼