Hello loyal readers! We’re lucky to have yet another guest blog (sheesh, does Karen ever work?) from our Seattle Poetry Slam beat reporter, Dane Kuttler. Enjoy!
Hey, slam fans! I couldn’t resist doing a slam report when I found out who this week’s feature was. Jason Carney, a self-described hick from Texas, sports an infectious grin, captivating drawl, and a level of energy and focus that has influenced countless poets. He banters easily with the crowd, maintaining total control of the atmosphere – the audience gave him as much love for his serious, intimate pieces as they did for his gut-busters. Another way to put it: he gained their trust almost instantly. That’s nearly impossible, people, but when it happens, it’s like letting a talented chef make you an eight-course dinner of whatever they want to cook. It’s delightful.
Another thing to point out: Jason premiered 3 new pieces last night. THREE! That’s a lot of new work for a seasoned poet like Jason. When you’ve toured as much as he does, breaking away from the old standards and favorites (which, let’s face it, sell more merch than risky new pieces) is delightful for both performer and audience. And when Jason admitted that one of his new pieces scared the hell out of him, the audience shifted. A perceptible aura of caring and gentleness came over the audience as Jason trembled onstage. Come on honey, you can trust us, I heard someone murmur behind me. Come on, indeed.
As Jason fed us lines like “unbuckle the darkness,” “what kind of fool pets a vulture / whose stomach is empty” and “straight men who suck c*** / in the darkness don’t call the police” and landed on “that wanderer still calls to me / wrecked bellied vulture / cackles at the night,” I could feel the bond between audience and performer strengthen into something almost tangible. This is the experience of poetry slam at its best.
Last week, I talked about what happens to me when men do poems about victimized women, so I’d be negligent not to mention Jason’s piece, “Whisper.” I want to mention just one small part – the opening lines of “Whisper” are “to make love to someone / who fights with their insides / to make love back” worked really well. Why? Because the speaker is talking about his experience of another person’s abuse. If I were to give a message to the slam community at large (myself included) it would be: work that stuff! There’s a reason we all write poems about this dark and twisty hard stuff – explore those reasons! What’s it like to be on your side of the story?
Of course, it wasn’t all fear and trembling. Jason knows how to bring us out of the darkness, through satire and a rueful rant about his kids. The feature flew by; I was shocked when he announced his last poem. A pleasure, all around. You’re welcome back any time, Mr. Carney.
Open Mic Notes
Mark – “F*** the Blue Angels,” a piece that considers the real purpose of the Blue Angels – efficient, brutal killing. Nice work, sir.
Morris – a wrenching, beautiful memorial piece for Gabrielle. Rather than Bunnying Up, Morris brought out the lion in Gabrielle. Yes. Yes, indeed.
Allison Durazzi – a piece about “the ultimate boyfriend,” brought lots of crowd love. Fun!
Annette brought a piece that began “those decked cards never stacked to favor” – I love the sound of that. The piece was about reclaiming custody of her sons. Well done.
Yonas – a well-delivered piece about the potential power of a single poem.
Denise Jolly – comes back to town with a tough breakup piece and a whole lotta love. Go see her show on Thursday!!
Mat Blessey – won my gut with a line about chemotherapy: “burning a forest to save a tree.” Excellent.
Open Slam Notes
Ms. Spelt, that lovely man from Vancouver, graced us all with a sacrificial piece about Gabrielle’s “F*** Cancer” brunch, reminding us about the power of the slam family. Time penalty left him with a 22.3. Worth it.
Jack McCarthy – why, oh, why is Jack constantly cursed with drawing the 1? At least he rocks it out with a poem about memories, and what happens when they get overstuffed. Genius storytelling, as always. 23.7
Barton Jackson – a love poem about the guy who can’t say “I Love You.” Can we all say “awww?” Points for lots of music imagery. 20.0
Bruce V Bracken – a new piece about bathroom sinks. Funny and evocative. I’d love to hear a revision of this in a few weeks. 16.8
Jodie Knowles – With a line about “feet slicing porcupine carpet,” Jodie turns a home wrecked by alcoholism into a house of horrors. Her presence onstage is mesmerizing – there’s nothing between her and the audience. I felt like we were sitting in her kitchen, and I hung on to every single word. Beautiful, Jodie. Great work. 26.6
Tara Hardy – one of her newer pieces about war. “They were ordered to shoot the children. / They did. / How can anyone come home whole after that?” Right on, Tara. Love it. 27.0
Dan Caroll (Carol?) – a new voice in town! Welcome, Dan! His piece, which worked to personify concepts of American idealism – “Justice is still blind, but taking donations” – went over well. A large time penalty took him from a 28.0 lead to a 26.5.
Dane Kuttler – I was experimenting with trying to get more vulnerable on stage. I think it came off looking like I had no conviction. Hmm. Crowd apparently agrees: 21.7
Rajni – I finally figured out the tune that opens this Rajni classic about racism. It’s “G-d Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Hilarious, no? 24.8
Rajni – A strong piece weaving Black history with manifesto. One of Rajni’s greatest strengths is covering many topics without seeming frenetic, and tying them together. Nicely done. Time penalty sets him back to a 22.4
Dan – “This is not the meat market.” He chooses to go off mic, and it works for him. 24.0
Tara – poem to her mother. I’ve only heard this one once before, but I’m glad she brought this one out. It’s beautiful, wrenching, excellently crafted. She weaved a thread about primroses through the piece, as both literal image and metaphor that cinches everything to a perfect fit. Amazing. Time penalty knocks her to a 27.3
(WTF IS WITH ALL THESE TIME PENALTIES?)
Jodie Knowles – a classic “I am imperfect” poem, delivered with that same honest cleanliness. One thing that struck me right away – on the line “rusted, bent and clunky,” Jodie made nearly-imperceptible movements in her knees and hips that accented the words perfectly. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it took my breath away. Great ending – abrupt, in the manner of Rachel McKibbens – “they’re singing to the doves I’ve killed.” chills. 23.2
Jack McCarthy – I was in the bathroom. Sorry, Jack!! 24.8
Tara Hardy – “Inside Adam’s Rib” – another one I’ve only heard once! One of the most image and metaphor-loaded piece I’ve ever heard from Tara. Brilliant construction. I need to hear it at least 5 more times to even begin to unlock it – bees, kitchens, ribs, oh my. 27.9
Jack McCarthy – follows with a stream-of-consciousness piece called “loose ends.” Highlight for me: “If alcohol kills so many brain cells, why not the ones that like to drink?!” A graceful 26.5
Dan – we get Dan’s real introduction in this last piece, when he weaves the story of Adam and Eve with his own birth into the slam scene. Excellent Douglas Adams epigram – “Flying is easy; all you have to do is throw yourself at the ground and miss!” Another fricking time penalty brings him to a 24.7
Congratulations Tara and Jack, who officially have spots in the next Semi-Finals!
FSN (Finneyfrock Slam News) Correspondent