Major Achivements & Awards:
- National Poetry Slam - Worcester Team
- Louder than a Bomb organizer
Alex Charalambides is a heavily active member of the Worcester Poetry Slam Community. Alex was born and raised in Worcester. After graduating from Boston College, he lived in Boston and came back to Worcester in late 90’s. Unsure of what he wanted to write but still pursuing the goal of being a writer, Alex tried to find a group with which he could work. He became frustrated for a few years after some difficulty finding collaborations, and he hit an artistic wall for a brief period of time.
Alex’s passion for the poetry slam movement soon began when he saw a film called “Slam,” where he was introduced to the world of performance poetry. Inspired by the film, he gathered the song lyrics he had written over the years and brought it to an open mic night (later turning out to be the Worcester Poets Asylum). Alex performed the lyrics on stage and quickly fell in love with performance poetry, being drawn to the rush of being on stage.
Mr. Charalambaides quickly involved with the poetry slam scene as a whole, and in 2001 he was an alternate on the 2001 Worcester poetry slam team that went to the Seattle National Poetry Slam Competition. Although he was amazed by the local poets in Worcester, the national scene was a jaw dropping experience for Alex. He soon began to branch out beyond Worcester to the Boston and Providence slam teams due to this piqued curiosity, but he came back to Worcester. He was part of the 2004 team sent to St. Louis for the National Poetry Slam competition.
Although still an avid poetry slam artist, his travels to Providence re-energized his involvement in the Poetry Slam scene due to the strong youth scene in Providence. Re-inspired by this youth community, He started the Worcester Youth Poetry Slam in 2003 upon his return to Worcester with the Worcester Artist Group in the now defunct “Sprinkler Factory.” For two years, he had the Youth Poetry Slam at the factory. In 2004 and 2005, Alex took the Youth Slam to Brave New Voices, the National Youth Poetry Slam festival, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Alex has a strong commitment to the youth scene and bringing the next generation of voices in Worcester as well as New England as a whole.
After feeling that he could reach young people in the area, Alex went on tour from 2005-2006. It was a six month tour in which he lived in car, lived on people’s couches, and sold CD’s to get by. As one friend described, it was “like playing minor league baseball.” He took a break from being a performer afterwards due to being burned out. He took a full time job, and while he kept slam going, he became less involved. Nevertheless, he helped with the Youth Poetry Slam scene, bringing them to Brave New Voices in San Jose in 2007.
He soon left his job to make a full time commitment in 2009 to being a poet, teaching artist, and youth activist. For his efforts, he received a grant from the city of Worcester to start the youth slam scene at Clark University. He began a monthly series of bringing poets and slams, and in 2010, he began a collaboration with Boston poets.
Alex soon became a part of MASSLEAP (Literary Education And Performance) and became involved in starting the “Louder than a Bomb” Youth Poetry Slam Tournament, whose name was taken from the Chicago festival with their blessing. With 16 different communities, 100 teenagers took part in the tournament, and the “Louder than a Bomb” festival received many corporate and non-profit sponsors. Because of his involvement in the festival, Alex could not coach the Worcester team at the same time and resigned from the Youth scene. Following Worcester’s victory in the scene afterward, Alex’s work in MASSLEAP became full time work for him doing workshops, residencies, and other special events. His current work also includes organizing events, being a teaching artist, and running the Dirty Gerund Poetry Show in Ralph’s Diner.
Inspirations for Alex’s work are a variety of performance poets, novels, Beat generation writers, and authors such as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Leo Tolstoy. He also drew inspiration from song lyrics and Hip Hop music. Although he does not read poetry often, he listens to it and loves watching people perform.
His interests started off with writing about loving to write about poetry and finding this community, celebrating the discovery of the scene. His style was heavily influenced by Hip Hop at the time, attempting to weave intricate rhyme schemes into his poetry. After some practice at slam, his poems soon focused more on story telling and experimented with noise and other musical elements. Although some view him as a comedic poet, he believes that he is both funny and serious, depending on what the situation calls.
Regarding the “Louder than a Bomb” festival, the festival started in Chicago. The name was chosen because of the emotions felt right after 9/11. The organizers hoped to capture energy in young people, believing that the voices of next generation can be louder than any other violence in the world. Alex’s other event, the Dirty Gerund, is a Bar Reading, resulting in a more adult flavor of poetry.
In terms of uniqueness, Worcester has a different feel compared to other communities due to its blue collar working class roots. Although a large city, Alex believes that, to find the artistic community, it takes some time and effort to find that world. Because of this, there are no expectations of what Worcester is, lending itself a Freedom to play with any style. The rugged, street savvy Worcester citizen embodies the general feeling, however.
As part of many different competitions, Eric Devenney has experienced different styles of mentoring and coaching from Alex along the way. Of note is the lack of structure that Alex utilizes in his mentoring. Offering team members the option of choosing to win or choosing to have fun, Alex focused more on accommodating the feel of the team into his mentoring style, listening and understanding where a poem can be improved while also knowing when to allow a team to simply have fun.