Here is another of our Slam Reviews by guest blogger, Dane Kuttler. Sorry for the late posting, Enjoy!
“The great ones,” said Jack McCarthy in this week’s open mic, “will keep moving and growing.” The line was in reference to Dr. Martin Luther King and how civil rights was only one of his foci – he also spoke against the Vietnam War, before “the whole world is watching” became the distress call of the generation. It’s easy to take Jack’s proclamation and apply it to this week’s feature: Dee Matthews. Hailing from Detroit, I first met Dee at the first Women of the World Poetry Slam. She was running a 9am workshop (the dreaded early slot) called “Getting Ugly Onstage.” It turned out to be a full-fledged performance workshop, complete with theatre games and peer critique. It was magical. Some of my closest friends in the slam community came out of that one two-hour workshop. The best ones are artists AND activists AND teachers AND (in Dee’s case) mothers, wives, friends and mentors.
Dee won the love of the crowd with her first piece, “Hold me Back.” The piece is an anthem to self-reliance, and a slap in the face to the figures in Dee’s life who tried to convince her she couldn’t write. Dee’s honesty is one of the most beautiful things about her. During the open mic, a heckler had tried to harass a poet on stage from the audience. While our fearless host, Jodie Knowles handled it smoothly and without a hitch (the guy was out of the bar in less than two minutes), the first thing Dee did when she got to the stage was to have the audience give Jodie props for the way she handled it. Dee doesn’t gloss over anything – not details of a performance, not uncomfortable topics, nothing.
If you asked me to name the top three performers of persona pieces (poems written in first person, in the voice of someone not the author), Dee would be my first choice. She used her banter time (in between poems) to talk about her drive and determination to find the stories of women who have been silenced across the world and bring them to light. Hence, her piece “Guatemalan Skies,” a brutal, flawlessly performed account of random violence against women in that country. Also, “Unrepentant Eve on Judgment” – a brand new, never-performed piece (woot, Seattle!) which Dee described “If Eve had all the qualities of Lilith, this is what she’d say.” It was fierce, ferocious, and – let’s not deny this, people – incredibly sexy. It was definitely my favorite piece of the night – I forgot to breathe for the last thirty seconds, and could barely clap when it was over. Dee kept the string of persona pieces going with “Wisdom,” a piece in the voice of an old woman explaining why she didn’t leave her plywood and cardboard house during Katrina, and “Grounded Revolution,” a piece that took her to a 3rd place win at WoWps last year.
The crowd graced her exit from the stage with a standing ovation. That doesn’t happen much. Thank you, Dee. Thank you so much for coming.
Open Mic Notes
Karen Finneyfrock opens the mic with a new piece about Portland. Man, I’m getting spoiled, what with all the poets I admire cranking out new gems. Excellent, as always.
Alex Russel – a hilarious piece about something every writer faces – getting rejected from publications. Had the crowd in his palm. Nice work.
Hillary – A response to Pat Robertson’s comment that Haiti deserved the earthquake. Stellar line: “If only you had more resorts, Haiti, you would be closer to G-d.” Chilling, great work. So good, in fact, that it invited a wildly inappropriate heckler to start yelling at her and the crowd – but she played it cool. Sorry about that, Hillary. Don’t let it stop you from coming back with more. We want more from you!
Alvin Lau – because slam superstars just occasionally happen to pop in to our open mic (yup, we’re that good!) Alvin graced us with “Miss Blenz” – a hilarious piece about a fifth grade teacher, (a poem written by and credited to Dan Sullivan). Alvin is master and commander of the slam stage, and he took us on a much-loved ride.
Jack McCarthy – You already heard my thoughts on Jack’s (beautiful) piece. His line about “the great ones” followed me home.
Jeff R came to the stage to give us all “permission to chill,” and “permission to do what you’re queasy to do” – nice line! Good work, Jeff. Come back.
Finneyfrock Slam News Correspondent
February 23 marked The Seattle Poetry Slam’s Specialty Slam in honor of Black History Month. For this slam, poets read the work of African America writers. Sadly, my respiratory issues got the best of me and I had to leave after the sacrificial poet. But, the news is a big congratulations to former Seattle Slam Team member Rajnii Eddins who was the winner of this specialty slam!