Last night was one of my favorite kinds of nights at the Seattle Poetry Slam. There was a nice mix of old voices we haven’t heard in a while (wonderful to hear Linden Ontjes on the open mike) and brand new voices in the slam. There was also an astounding feature!
Last nights feature was Matt Gano. I need to drink more coffee to have the energy to talk about how great Matt’s feature was last night. Matt came to slam through hip hop (he also performs as Meticulous the Visitor with Chris Carroll as emcee Moresun Wells in The Gold Fronts,) and has melted his interest in hip hop and poetry in a unique fondue of sound and story telling.
Matt has always been good. He uses humor and word play effortlessly and his connection with the audience is undeniable. But lately, Matt has been using language like Play Dough, he can make anything out of it. It started with his poem “To the Moon,” which contains lines like, “shine your Buddha belly/on the tinted windows of all our limos,” “we will be toasting you/ …because your libido tides wash through our sex organs/ like pipe music.”
The first time Roberto heard this poem, he started stomping around the room and saying, “That’s new language, that’s the new language.” Matt kept it going with Dirty Talk Boom-Sky, Holy Water Face and now the ecstatic and thrilling Do it Imagine Do it. Matt has turned himself into one of the most exciting writers in spoken word nationally. His feature last night was nothing short of thrilling. I would put him up anywhere and proudly announce, “this is what spoken word poetry is producing today.” He’s a Seattle treasure!
I have to take a minute to talk about what a great guy Matt is too. Matt has been a huge influence on YouthSpeaks Seattle and many of our young poets in this city. He ran the writing circle for years (now collectively facilitated by Matt, Roberto and myself on Thursday nights from 7-9 pm at WAPIFASA in the ID.) Matt is such an amazing youth mentor and writing circle leader that I used to take notes while watching him lead. He has also done incredible things for me personally by encouraging my self-esteem around writing and performing. He was my team mate on Seattle’s Slam Team last year and an all around gem!
Now…on to the slam!
I looooove it when we get new voices in the slam. Half of the slam was filled with folks I’ve never heard before.
I sacrificed with my poem “How to Identify a Damaged Girl.” (An older version of this poem here.)
1. Bruce V. Bracken: Great poem I’ve never heard before from Bruce. “It’s hard for me to memorize.”
2. Jack McCarthy: “Song of the Open Mike.” What can I say, Jack is a national treasure.
3. Tara Hardy: “Peace and Justice” The idea is “what would you sacrifice for peace?” expert: “If you want the Israelis and Palestinians to stop slinging slop, than have you sent a Christmas ham to the man who beat your mother?” A perfect score of 30, completely deserved!
4. Mende Smith: “feel me up. bear my lilies. say you love me.” I’ve said it before, Mende keeps getting better every time I see her. That is a sign of someone who can excel at this.
5. David D. Horowitz: This was his first time slamming ever. I have to confess that David is a friend before I say this, but I thought he was robbed in his scores. He is an incredibly expressive performer and meticulous writer. He chose to read 6 short poems tied together as one and I think the lack of continuity is what lowered his points. A telling compliment is that Sara Brickman turned to me and asked, “is he old school?”
6. Julia: New reader! I wrote down “intriguing” in my notebook when she started. She had some very nice turns of phrase.
7. John Greenburg: Also new, John has got some social commentary burning to get out! I really enjoyed his style and subject matter. I deeply appreciate that he chose to write a poem about a woman reading poetry!
8. Vanessa: New again! Vanessa had a lovely stage presence. Some of her lines were very nice, but I have to comment that I don’t think this first poem really knew what it wanted to say. It seemed to move from soldiers to slavery to women’s rights to marriage like a car swerving downhill without breaks. Still, there was certainly promise.
1. Vanessa: Much more focused poem about food and marriage. Some great lines and again, delightful to watch on stage. Very likable.
2. John Greenburg: John showed he could be funny and connect with his audience in this poem. That is exactly what you want to do in Round 2.
3. Julia: Great opening line, “There is something satisfying about destruction.”
4. Tara Hardy, “Heartbreak.” A perfect score of 30. (Do you see what’s happening here?)
5. Jack McCarthy: “Car Talk, A Love Poem.” Another Jack classic. Another one for the slam hall of fame.
1. John Greenburg: As a new slammer, John really held it down all the way through the show. Again, heavy on the social commentary. He talks like a man who has some things to get off his chest. (took 2nd place!)
2. Tara Hardy: “Sand.” “If the sand could talk, she might say…” Can you guess what happened? Perfect 30. (1st Place!)
3. Jack McCarthy: “Message to a Daughter.” Jack knows that this is my favorite of his poems. He read it for me when I moved away from Seattle for a sick family member. I always feel like he is reading it for me. (3rd place.)
Those of you reading carefully will have noticed by now that Tara Hardy won the slam last night with a perfect score in every round. I’ve been heavily involved in poetry slam for 10 years. The number of slams I’ve seen/ been in numbers in the hundreds and I’ve NEVER SEEN THIS HAPPEN BEFORE! It was historic. Tara’s power on stage right now is stunning.
Come see Tara as part of the Salt Lines Tour on Sunday, March 8 at reBar. Tickets are on sale now.