Lea Deschenes/Victor Infante
- National Poetry Slam - Worcester Team
Lea Deschenes has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. Starting in Worcester by teaching theater at WPI, she started performing poetry in 1991, doing poetry slam in 92-93, and became part of the team in 93, although she didn’t get to go due to the lack of plane fare. In 1994, she went with the team to Ashville, NC. In 1995, she went to Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1996, she coached the Worcester Team going to Nationals. In 1997, she became part of the Providence, RI slam team, in which her husband was coaching the team. She then spent time on other projects such as receiving her Masters in Fine Arts in Poetry during this time, and she eventually came back to the scene in 2005 when she was Worcester’s representative to the Individual Poetry Slam tournament.
Lea is a lover of poetry. Although she received her undergraduate degree in theater, she has always loved performing and reading her poetry with emotion. She believes that slam is great because of that, and she does not believe that poets need be separated into page or performance poets. She enjoys writing about whatever pops into her head such as philosophy, random biology trivia, and any sort of weird pop science.
Lea enjoys the performance of poetry immensely, and for her, the slam is a draw for an audience to watch poets fight for blood as opposed to a simple open mic night. She can understand the feeling of being jaded after seeing a performance so many times. In terms of style, she would much rather see what people want to do rather than what they’re supposed to do to win points.
Community is a big aspect of Worcester for both Lea and Victor. Their favorite aspect about poetry slam is meeting new people that you’d never think you meet and places you’d never think you’d go. Although they arenot as actively involved anymore, they maintain close ties with the people involved.
In the early years of the slam, Lea reminisced of being young and energetic, allowing for a freedom to readings in the “Golden Triangle” of Worcester, Boston, and Providence within the same week. Worcester did not hold a slam team until 1993, and at that point in time, it was more of turning coffee houses into poetry slams. Upon going to Ashville, in which slam was new at the time, seeing all of those poets at a single place was an amazing sight. Meeting the Syracuse team during the bout and cheering them on was an exciting time for the Worcester team. Never focused on the scores, the Worcester team focused much more on winning over the audience.
Lea’s husband, Victor Infante, currently works for the Telegram & Gazette. He has been publishing for 25 years. Inspired by the readings of poets such as Ted Hughes, his poetry slam history began in Southern California, which bloomed late due to local isolation in terms of the poetry scene. After a group went in 1995 to Ann Arbor, the team insisted on branching out to bring a team to Nationals, fielding a team in 1996 to Portland, OR. It was there that Victor met Lea.
After a brief time in which Victor moved to Worcester and both moved to California, both moved back to Worcester, and Victor took a job at the Telegram and Gazette. From there, they transitioned from being really involved in Slam to being more casual in the Slam movement. As of right now, one of the proudest aspects of the community Lea has is its lack of dependence on its founders. She feels that the readings need to grow and adapt with the new generation finding its own voice. Having met others who have been burnt out by working so long in managing it, she feels that new management is working very well for the asylum currently.
Philosophically, although they are not active in the slam scene, both consider themselves slam poets, as the audience has a right to that involvement. The presence of a slam community is something good, but it is not what Lea is currently writing for. In contrast to the slam scene as it was blooming, there are many more poets now for people to imitate, and for the generations to find their own voice independently is exciting for the two of them.