Fils-Aime to represent Boston in national poetry slam

McKendy Fils-Aime first started writing poetry “like any high school kid does” – after being dumped by his high school sweetheart. Now, almost 10 years after his high school debut, he is one of five members of the Boston team at this year’s National Poetry Slam in Cambridge.

Born in New York City to Haitian parents, Fils-Aime moved to New Hampshire when he was young and attended local high school, where he first began exploring the medium of poetry.

“I said to myself, ‘I really like writing poetry, and I think I should start taking this more seriously,’” Fils-Aime said of his first experiences with writing.

During the rest of his high school career, he began to hone the craft of spoken word poetry, concentrating on his delivery and performance style. He then began to enter poetry readings and local “slams,” which he continued doing when he got to the University of New Hampshire.

Since his debut on the slam circuit, Fils-Aime has performed in the last three National Poetry Slams, for the Manchester, NH team in 2008, the Worcester team in 2009, and the Manchester team again in 2010. This year, he decided to take his craft to the bigger Boston slam clubs and made the Boston team, which will compete in Cambridge for the 2011 National Poetry Slam on August 9.

The National Poetry Slam, which takes place every year in a different city, draws dozens of poetry teams, all of which are composed of some of the most acclaimed poets in their respective areas.

For these teams, it’s a long, strange trip on the road to the National Poetry Slam, with some traveling from as far away as Australia to take their turn at the Mic. To get to that point, individuals have to perform well enough in several regional poetry slams and be sponsored by a local group, all the while footing their own travel costs and expenses.

For his part, Fils-Aime made a name on the poetry scene by traveling down the East Coast last year with his four-person poetry group “No More Ribcage,” hop scotching down the Atlantic by venues in Philadelphia, Pittsburg, New Jersey before ending the journey in Orlando, Fl.

“I appreciated every part of the journey,” Fils-Aime said. “It was good to see what every poet was like, what every scene was like on its own turf. Sometimes there are poems that wouldn’t necessarily be received well on the national stage, but when people perform them in their own places … and people recognize the poems, that’s great to see.”

Fils-Aime draws inspiration from sources more close to home, too. His Haitian background has proven a ripe subject for exploration. Although his niche subject is mythology - one of his main poems is a re-telling of the story of Pandora – he does explore his Haitian roots in some of his writing in an open, expository way.

“When I do write about being Haitian, I try to make people understand where I’m coming from,” he said. “When you’re writing something about cultural heritage, you have to do it precisely and honestly.”

Fils-Aime hopes to become a teacher, a career choice he made after working in a writing workshop on weekends. He said he wants to keep writing poetry and serve as a mentor for up-and-coming poets as his own career advances.