There are times when I have to stand back and marvel at what Poetry Slam, Inc. does as an organization on behalf of all these poets – organizing tournaments, handing out personal cell phone numbers to hundreds of people, maintaining hospitality and grace under demands and pressure, etc.
But right now, PSi is taking a step back in my gratitude brain, and in its place is a bunch of ragtag poets who created an amazing workshop this morning.
Dee Mathews, recent Seattle feature and teacher extraordinaire, has hosted the much-lauded Getting Ugly On Stage workshop in the last two years of WoWps. This year, the organizers didn’t want to give her the pressure of leading a workshop, since she’s also competing. So, Lindsay Miller and I stepped up and said we’d do it instead.
Fifteen poets from New Jersey to Seattle came to the little conference room we’d been graciously allowed. We opened up by reading from “The Tittler,” a branch of “the Tattler,” the official National Poetry Slam gossip rag.
Seattle’s own Tara Hardy and Daemond Arrindell was mentioned in the Tittler in these gems:
Perfect Slam Judge Found
Bout manager Daemond Arrindel alerted the Tittler today that he has found the slam judge by which all future slam judges should be judged. Judge Jamie Goldstein McDonald Hussein, encountered today while pulling zir Vespa up to Kickstart’s, has lived exactly one-tenth of zir life in Columbus, Chicago, St. Paul, Denver, Seattle, Phoenix, New York City, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and all of Canada. Jamie identifies as quiracial. Asked if ze likes sandwiches, Jamie replied, “F*** yeah!”.”
“Judge Discovered To Actually Be Judging Racks; Tara Hardy Robbed of Title Again”
(Actually, authors of The Tittler should totally take note that only 4 poets were mentioned by name, and 3 of those were in mention of those poets’ breasts. Seriously, guys? Yes, it’s hilarious, but come on!)
After everyone meandered in, we began with two warm-up exercises that got everyone nice and bonded and talking. Then, the workshop began: go up and do a minute of your poem. Take feedback from everyone. Do it again.
The turnaround was incredible. As poet after poet transformed their pieces by planting their feet, relaxing their shoulders, weighting their gestures and focusing their voices, I became a little awed. I’ve seen this workshop happen three times now. I get quivery and awestruck every single time. When one poet’s sheer anxiety caused her to freeze and cry in the middle of her poem, nobody coddled her. We took a break, came back, and had her do the poem as she should – off the page. We strategized with her, found ways to make her look prepared and focused. We poked gentle fun of each other’s tendencies to rock, sway, or make ambiguous gestures. We played “gesture dictionary,” wherein we all took the same image and came up with a gallery of gestures for the author to peruse and consider. We scrutinized. We pushed. We showed what was working and demanded more from each other. It was workshopping at its best.
Tonight’s bout is going to be amazing, wherever you are.
Finneyfrock Slam News