Enjoy this detailed blow-by-blow reporting of the Seattle Poetry Slam’s Grand Slam, created by Seattle’s own Dane Kuttler. Although this post is concentrated on the competition, I would like to add an editorial note that our feature for the night, Airea “Dee” Matthews, did one of the finest features I’ve ever seen. She is a true master of the craft, both a spectacular writer and astounding performer. I expect to hear great, big things from Dee in the coming years, and can’t wait to watch the whole world discover her brilliance!
Hello slam fans! It’s been a long time (and a long time coming) but tonight, we bring you, without interruption:
THE SEATTLE GRAND SLAMBLOG!!
Maya Hersh breaks open the double sacrifice with her stunning showstopper “Open Your Eyes.” This piece actually saw a Grand Slam stage last year, and it is an entirely appropriate sacrifice – it’s a triumphant piece about getting past the grime and drudge of working life and finding joy everywhere. It sounds like a benediction. The audience is quiet, receptive, a few people nodding, then breaks into cheers and strong applause. Maya takes a 21.6.
Jah Akbar “Jonathan Speaks to King David Before his Death” I have to brag, a little, because Jah wrote this poem specifically for an anthology I’m co-editing called In The Biblical Sense. It’s a poem of devotion, and love. I was the first one to wash your feet,” says Jonathan of his king, whom others are starting to call “Messiah.” Gorgeous. And Jah takes a 20.7
Rose McAleese brings plagiarism to the stage in style. Not that her work is someone else’s – NO – it’s a poem all about sampling, quoting, and pulling from other work for inspiration, done right or done wrong. Rose pulls the audience in deftly with speed and style and takes a 23.9
Evan Dunn begins quietly with a piece about external war and struggle being a real effort to deal with internal war and struggle. The audience is silent, hanging on to Evan’s rapid-fire whispers and gentle booms. “I am sorry,” he says “because I have misrepresented G-d.” Evan leaves the audience with a long moment of silence and receives a 22.9
Amber Flame strides to the stage in what Slammaster Arrindel notes is “one of the many pairs of combat boots on stage tonight” and whips out her classic “Sex Church Poem.” It’s an interesting conversation forming on stage – a church poem answering a G-d poem – but Amber’s invites raucous audience commentary, leaving them laughing and shrieking at each turn. Amber pulls a TIME PENALTY (you rat bastard! you’re ruining it for everyone!) for a 24.3.
Greg Bee “To the Wolf in Tolerant Clothing” – “I would’ve prayed to be normal if I’d known what to pray for.” I love this poem, this defiant poem about terror, this utter claim of a childhood spent in the closet. “I flame with the fire that forged me.” Greg delivers like a good preacher – you find yourself nodding and saying YES – to the tune of a 23.6.
Roma Raye storms to the mic with “Electricity,” about loving trumpet. Gotta admit this, slam fans – I am an absolute sucker for poems about music. “I learned the shape of my mouth with her,” says Roma of her first horn. As a kid who fell in love with a trombonist in high school, the poem strikes a delightful smile from me. Roma departs with thunderous applause ringing in her ears to the tune of (score missing)
Mary Lambert’s “Tell the Truth” is an arresting piece; it flops back and forth between three voices: a liar, the voice of truth and the voice of the enforcer – the one who demands the truth. It’s also about getting blackout drunk as a way of remembering repressed trauma, but that sounds too much like a psych textbook to describe the experience of emotional whiplash that comes with this poem. 23.7 for Mary.
Ela Barton brings the voice of bitterness, longing and defiance with “Trailer in Aspen,” a piece about class, and how it divides relationships. It sits uncomfortably with some of the audience, who squirm in their seats, but the others are heralding it as an anthem for the working class. I love it. Ela is focused, tight, and self-assured. 23 even.
Sara Brickman strides to her last-slot spot in (it must be acknowledged) a firecracker of a dress. She brings “Things I learned while Trying To Write A Poem About Joy.” It’s a joy fountain of the kind Brickman excels at – an off-balance, self-conscious dance that’s irresistibly inviting. She begs you to join her, and you want to go. 24.2
Sara – brings it back with “Hollow,” another piece I’ve never heard (have I mentioned yet how much I love it when people do new work in important slams?) It’s bullying turned poetry – the best of its kind. 24.1 secures her spot in the final round, and on the Seattle Slam team!
Ela brings up “Trauma Trigger,” about country music triggering her history of abuse. It’s hard to describe the experience of poems like this; the only thing to do is bear witness, to thank the artist for bringing it forward. 24.6
Mary brings her ode to domesticity, a poem I hold dear because it addresses something I’ve struggled with recently – it’s totally okay to be happy building Ikea furniture and snuggling in one’s pajamas on a hot Saturday night. 23.8
Roma swings out a recursive piece that uses repetition to convey the experience of mental illness. She’s working very hard on stage. I see several dropped jaws in the audience! 23.7 She ties Sara Brickman for the second spot on the slam team!
Greg – brings his “Gift to the World” – a primer on flirting. Delightful, beautiful, and has the sense of a victory lap. Push, Greg! Push! It should be noted that this poem introduced the phrase “bump-bump sexy” into my lexicon, and for this, Greg should be at least knighted, if not crowned.
Amber pushes out a dark anthem to beauty. I honestly can’t tell if it’s triumphant or tragic. (I am losing battery power on the laptop, so the reviews get sparse from here!) 23.9 secures her spot on the team!!
Evan does “body turned business,” a piece about Christ. 22.5
Rose – pulls out Bobby Sands for a spot-winning 24.5
I wish to make this abundantly exuberantly clear, so I will say it loudly:
THE SEATTLE POETRY SLAM NATIONAL TEAM IS ALL WOMEN FOR THE THIRD YEAR IN A ROW!
Sara Brickman spits a letter to the high school girl who moved back in with her high school teacher. And the judges discover that 8s are an okay score: 24.6
Amber Flame – “I want to tell you what happened in the aftermath” Also a 24.6.
Roma Raye “I am a revolutionary” – anthemic, defiant. 24.2
Rose McAleese closes the night with Lady Macbeth and clinches a well-deserved win with the highest score of the night – a whopping 25.6
Congratulations, team! You did it!