On Tuesday night while I was seeing Junot Diaz at Benaroya Hall as part of Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Lecture Series (wow! I wrote down so many things he said, I felt like I was taking notes for a test!), my guest blogger Greg Bee was hosting the Fierce Five send-off show at Hugo House.
Here is Greg Bee’s review of the show!
Richard Hugo House is such an intimate setting for spoken word. Last night at the Fierce Five Fundraiser, four poets (more on the math momentarily) trotted out pieces that they hope will kill on stage at the Women of the World Poetry Slam next month in Detroit. I suspect these pieces and the poets who spit them, will definitely kill.
Short history: Poetry Slam Incorporated, due to the seeming imbalance in competitive opportunities for female poets, was approached a couple of years ago about creating a women-only event (our own Karen Finneyfrock was part of that ‘approach’). Last year was the first Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWps) and Seattle poet Tara Hardy took fourth in that competition.
Cut to present day, the Seattle Slam held this year’s tournament to see who would represent Seattle at WOWps in Detroit this year. Not incredibly surprising is that Tara Hardy will represent us again! (That girl is on FIRE!)
But here’s the added bonus. Tara was inspired by the other poets competing for the WOWps spot and encouraged the other performers (5 of them) to band together and get themselves to Detroit for the competition. The Fierce Five were born. Last night’s show was a fundraiser to help them pay their way to lovely Detroit. The audience, through door sales, brownie sales, chap book sales and straight donations, ponied up $456 toward the effort. Awesome.
Tara kicked off this show with a new piece that she read off the page. It was quite a current piece talking about (I recall) women who regularly cut out the things that are unimportant in order to survive (sounds like national budget cutting to me). My favorite line/moment was something like “cut everything away until only they remain”. The audience (and I) gasped in all the places that we should have gasped. In her intro of the piece she demonstrated her usual endearing self-deprecation and subsequent fight against internalized oppression. All of that happened in about 20 seconds and left the audience giggling with her and also with a flash view of her commitment to improving her life and the lives around her through her writing and performance. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t ever tire of Tara’s work and I’ve seen a fair share of it.
In no particular order, the poets last night:
Jennifer Prichard – OK, I guess there is a vague order. Every one of us has a poet or a piece that speaks to us extra loudly: I’m such a fan of Jennifer’s work. She often writes about the addictions she’s battled and maybe because of history of addiction in my own family, I feel strongly that these are messages that need to be heard. Jennifer’s work is stark and blunt. It hits her audience like rapid fire rocks launched from the microphone. It’s great watching people respond to her work. The thing not often seen in her work is her great comic writing and delivery. The piece “Vagina-cologist” is, in my opinion, freakishly brilliantly funny.
Ela Barton – I’ve long been a fan of Ela’s ability to write compelling pieces that also rhyme since rhyme is so far out of my comfort zone (when my pieces rhyme it’s usually accidental). Her work on stage last night was relaxed and intimate. Ela’s stage presence gets better and better, I think. Her piece about cooking for a sorority has that brilliant one-two-punch we get when a poet makes us laugh (what a great word is “sororitude”?!) then smacks us around a little (“I can’t help them, I’m just the help to them.”) when she tells us about the dark side of the day to day lives of these girls. This is my current favorite of Ela’s pieces.
Maya Hersch – At her recent feature at the Green Bean coffee house in Greenwood, Maya told the audience that she’s shy and doesn’t talk to people easily. I think this is true, because I’ve been watching Maya perform for more than a year and she and I are only recently connecting on more than a smile-and-nod level (perhaps I’m the one who it’s tough to know). Either way, last night was another great night in Maya’s evolution as a stellar poet and performer. She did some favorites: I Don’t Do Relationships (which closed the show), one piece for which I don’t remember the title, but remember pools of streetlamp light and the one that got away, and her piece about learning to fly. The learning to fly piece was my favorite of hers last night because she gets (and keeps) the audience’s attention by asking rhetorical questions throughout the piece that keep people thinking (“Is it still flying if I only go down?”). I have to remember that for my own work because I love it so much in Maya’s.
Sara Brickman – Good Lord, Sara is blowing my socks off these days. And not just mine, my non-scientific laugh-o-meter last night indicated that she got more laughs per word than anyone else. Sara is settling into her work and wrapping it around her like it’s a comfy blanket. She is relaxed and engaging on stage and uses her body really well to emphasize her points. She’s also really good at delivering the lines that she knows will get audience reaction (in her piece Coffee, “…opening a new coffee shop where Americano drinkers will drink watered down espresso [pause, pause, pause]…at the bottom of a live volCANo!”). I love watching Sara’s work more and more and whatever she’s doing to connect with her work onstage is a lesson I need to learn.
Jodie Knowles – Jodie wasn’t at the show due to a family emergency, but Ela read her “Compassion” piece in Jodie’s honor last night. It’s a great piece and Ela did a great job, making me think again that I love when poets perform someone else’s work. It’s fun to embody what we think is someone else’s voice and see how it turns out. (I performed Karen Finneyfrock’s The Butterfly House and Three Haiku at a specialty slam once and it was HUGE fun.)
The Fierce Five have another feature in Everett and subsets of them will be continuing to be onstage between now and March 18th when they board a plane for Detroit.