Sorry gang! Several challenges have befallen my week. I usually post slam wrap ups on Thursday but teaching, college show, youth slam and charity auction chewed up all my time. Then I left the notebook with slam notes at one of my schools. Here is an abbreviated version of the slam, the best I can do without my notes!
Every once in a while, I overdose on poetry. I work for Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers in the Schools Program. We have 4 readings this year at Hugo House featuring Writers-in-Residence. Wednesday night, I went to that reading, starting at 7:30pm and featuring 5 readers and then dashed out the minute the reading ended to race over to the slam. All told, it was continuous reading from 7:30pm-11:30pm with a two breaks. Wow.
The WITS reading (theme: “How to Planet”) was amazing. Eli, Wilson, Emily, Samar and Angela Dy were luminous. The best thing about the WITS readings is the cross-section of work. Last night we heard short story, memoir, poetry and spoken word, all from writers who are great at what they do. That is difficult to find in a town with so many literary camps that mix too seldom.
I buzzed down to Belltown just in time for the Seattle Poetry Slam’s featured poet Christian Drake. Christian has had a pretty amazing career in poetry slam. As a young poet coming out of the youth slam scene, Christian quickly made a name for himself nationally. One of the best things about being a slam poet is that if your life is begging you for a change and some fresh air, you can quit your job, get rid of your apartment, get in your car and tour around until your head clears. Buddy Wakefield did it for 2 years. Christian came to us after 2 1/2 months in his car. I love that energy! He displayed the performance chops that accompany such a bold undertaking.
Christian warned us at the start of his set, “when I get nervous, I start yelling.” Then the mic went out seconds into his first poem. He dramatically flung the mic to the carpet and started stalking around the audience performing his poem about how hi-def t.v. has ruined porn. (Love your body in all of its imperfection.) At one point during the poem, Christian grabbed hold of his pearl snap cowboy shirt and ripped it open. At the end of the poem, he told us “So, I guess that’s what happens when my mic goes out.” He promised to take off his shirt again at least once during his feature and he did not disappoint.
That first poem was one of my favorites from his set. My other favorite was about harmonicas being delivered to soldiers in Iraq. Very few poems I’ve heard about Iraq have made me feel in my body what it might like to be a soldier there. This poem did that for me. Christian ended his set with a poem for the tiger who escaped the zoo and mauled some teenagers, killing one of them. The poem was for the tiger, and for what is still wild in our world/inside of us. One nice line, “white is the opposite of orange.”
My only criticism of Christian’s performance is that it seemed a little big for the room. Our venue offers a great opportunity for intimacy with the audience (great sound, listening, literary audience), and Christian’s performance felt more tailored to a large auditorium with a big crowd. Still, several masterful pieces and the audience loved him.
The slam was over packed last night so Maya Hersh and I had to excuse ourselves from competing since we already have spots in the Grand Slam. We were both pretty bummed since we both brought new poems to slam with. My sincere gratitude to Maya who let me be the sacrificial even though she wanted to perform. Thank you Maya! I now officially owe you one.
So I read a new poem called “The Rube Goldburg Machine” about being in high school and making out when you are supposed to be doing your science home work. Look out Nerd Slam!
1. Heidi: Brand new reader in the slam! She had some nice lines and I appreciated her stage presense. I always say that there is no such thing as “slam poetry.” I’ve seen haiku win a slam. But, I will admit that I just don’t think this poem was one that would naturally do well in a slam. Still, a good poem.
2. Bruce: Bruce did a new poem about the bail out. “The next time beloved uncle (explitive) me with a trillion dollar check, I’m going to buy…” There was some good writing in this poem and I think people want to talk about the economy right now. Personally, I disagree with Bruce’s sentiment and have trouble commenting on the poem in an unbiased way.
3. St. Even: Disclaimer: I’ve been work shopping poems with Steven and I think he’s dope. This new poem is about a skiing accident that changed his life in a dramatic way. Steven is probably one of the hardest working people at the slam right now. He is using his math brain to solve the puzzle of poetry slam and it is fascinating to watch him figure it out. I really like this piece.
4. Wanbli: Wanbli was my team mate for NPS 2008. He performed his poem about the buffalo, “listen…the buffalo are coming.” This is my favorite of Wanbli’s poems. The image of the grass, of America when we still had bison and prarie is highly imagistic and important. I’m surprised it didn’t score better.
This is where I lost my notes, so here are just a few random notes from the rest of the night:
Sarah Sapienza did a brand new poem in the first round and it was amazing. It was about the kids she works with and the audience went wild.
Sara Brickman did the Cosmo poem (about the magazine not the drink.) Contains my favorite Brickman line, “giggle it open.” She did her new poem in round 2. This poem is about Detroit (where Sara is from) and the auto industry and the economy. WOW! This poem is wildly good.
A brand new slammer killed it and won the slam on Wednesday! I wrote down her name but-again- sorry for the lost notes. Someone please remind me. She had a huge presence on stage. I really like her charisma and I enjoyed her first two poems. I personally thought she went over the top on the last round by screaming on stage and pretending to cry. It is just a personal bias I have against theatre on the slam stage. I met her after the show and she is an incredibly nice person who moved here recently from Alaska. Welcome!
Great show everybody!