Daemond Arrindell (Seattle Slam Master) is a genius. Every month or so, the Seattle Slam has a “specialty slam.” These are generally fun, silly nights like “The Dead Poet’s Slam,” “The Haiku D’Etat,” or last night’s event “The Bad Love Slam.” Daemond is a genius because this year he made the rule that in order to be in the Grand Slam, poets must appear in at least one specialty slam. This rule forces poets into absurd and sometimes embarrassing competition for our viewing pleasure. It is awesome!
As usual, I will resist posting any photos because Andi’s flickr page is so superior. See photos of the slam there.
Our feature last night was the talented NYC poet Jive Poetic. I haven’t seen Jive perform since he featured for us 3-4 years ago in Seattle. Back then I thought he was charismatic (one of those people you can’t take your eyes off of on stage,) funny and clever. Now I see a depth and range in his writing that is impressive. He has been digging the well all these years. His feature last night was masterful.
One of the things I love most about slam is seeing the other writers who I’ve really grown up with in this art form who are still writing, growing and changing. Those are the moments that excite me the most to be part of the slam community. The thought ran through my head last night, “look out academy, we just keep getting better.”
One of my favorite poems Jive did last night was the poem about the girl who was sentenced to life + for stabbing someone at the same time that OJ Simpson was declared innocent. Jive told me her name was Tracy Smothers but I can’t seem to find any stories about her on the internet. Let me know if you find any, y’all.
Jive said he has been writing a series of poems about conversations between two people who would never have spoken. “Native Sisters” is a poem in which an African woman on a slave ship speaks to a native Carribean woman. This poem astounded me. Brilliant writing.
Fans of Big Booty will love this story! Last time Jive came through town, we forced him to play our favorite Seattle Slam game called “Big Booty.” Big Booty is a call and response game that we used to play every week after the slam at the Lower Level. Daemond and I take the game to NPS where it is an underground hit every year.
Jive took the game back to NYC where he was working with teens in the Bronx, except there they changed the game to “Big Homie.” He has promised to send me a video of them playing the game and I promise you I will post “Big Homie” on this blog.
Now for the slam…“The Bad Love Slam” or “The Duet Slam” featured bad poems about love or poems about bad love or two poets performing at the same time.
I’m only going to review Round 1 from this slam.
Sara Brickman was the sacrificial poet. Best reading of her “Boat Poem” I’ve heard her do.
1. Sarah Sapienza paid homage to Eirik Ott with a great reading of a funny love poem of his. Oddly enough, Eirik was my partner for Seattle’s duet slam 8 years ago. Sarah, why are you plagued with going early in the bout? Sarah wins hottest outfit award from last night. Those tights…hubba hubba.
2. Bruce V. Bracken wins most awkwardly revealing poem with a poem that seemed to be about phone sex and a vibrating teddy bear. I could have heard wrong.
3. Maya and eLa duet!! So adorable. These girlfriends did Maya’s poem “I Don’t do Relationships,” together and it was the cutest thing I have seen in forever. I can’t think of another time we have had both members of a couple in the same Grand Slam.
4. Tara Hardy, why do you rock so hard? Tara read a free write called “The Stages of Breaking-up,” in which she compared the stages of a break to the 5 stages of grief. It was (naturally) laugh out loud funny and then punched you right in the wind pipe at the end. “Spring is coming, when all the girls will be wearing tank tops again and winking at each other. Please God let me not be broken by then.” I’m sorry for the poor quoting Tara, but lord, that was gorgeous.
5. Greg B & Laine Stroud duet! So great to see Laine back on the slam stage. She is such an engaging performer! She is like a super hot version of Lucille Ball. I love the work these two poets are doing together and I highly second the motion that they should put together a multi-voice show.
6. Mende did an intriguing poem from the voice of Elizabeth Barret Browning to Robert Browning. As I told her after the slam, I really couldn’t hear the poem because she read it in an accent. Although I applaud her for taking a risk, I personally don’t like poets reading in accents that are not their own. It feels like theatre to me and I lose the honesty of the work. I do think that Mende is improving exponentially on the slam stage and that she should keep on working it.
At the end of the night:
1st place: Maya & eLa
2nd place: Greg B & Laine Stroud
3rd place: Tara Hardy
One final story from the night. The most awesome part of last night was that twice the entire audience started singing along with the song DJ Whatever was playing. The first time it happened was to that Biz Markie song “But you say he’s just a friend.”
The second time was to the song “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. That reminded me of my #1 all-time-favorite moment from any National Poetry Slam. It was the first year in Austin, 2006 at the Austin slam bar called Ego’s. It was the late night event “Karaoke” hosted by Shappy and Dawn Gabriel. At the end of the hilariously fun night, they played “Linving on a Prayer,” and every single poet in that packed-to-capacity bar got up and sang that song like they were Jon Bon Jovi in front of a stadium audience. I mean, we sang those words like we wrote them ourselves. It was euphoric. Those are the moments that make me come back to nationals.
“…we gotta hold on to what we got, doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. we’ve got each other and that’s a lot. For love, we’ll give it a shot!…”