Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday August 19th, 2005 - 4:39AM

Patrick Rosal is the devil! but that's another story...

We got to Albuquerque for the National Poetry Slam on Tuesday. Hotel Blue is a small motelish like joint (complete with outdoor balcony/hallways) with a very decent pool. The poets pretty much filled it up which is a good thing. If you're hotel management you don't really want to have to worry about the sensibility of other guests when you have poets in your hotel.

The opening reception at the Hispanic Cultural Center featured free tequila, beer, and a DJ spinning old R&B and late 80s early 90s hip-hop. In other words, it was off the hook. It promised good things for the coming tournament and immediately got rid of the memory of last year's debacle of a nationals in St. Louis, a debacle of a city. Once we got back to the hotel, i proceeded to break my first hotel rule. The pool area was officially closed at 10:30pm, but i thought that midnight was as good a time as ever for a swim - so what if i'm wearing cargo shorts. the security guard was non-plussed.

On wednesday, we had our first bout. We came up against Milwaukee, France, host city Albuquerque and Oneonta. Rachel McKibbens and I opened up with a duet version of my poem "the future of America in the belly of the beast - the millenium edition". We scored a 27.3 and held a lead of .1 over Oneonta and .3 over Albuquerque going into the 2nd round. In our second round, Jive Poetic scored a 27.2 which was trumped by albuquerque's 28.2. Oneonta fell off the pace. In the third round, we sent up Tai Freedom Ford. She got a time penalty... still managed a 28.4, which was the high score of the night, and we won the bout by 2 points as albuquerque couldn't follow it.

Moment of the evening: Karen Finneyfrock and i are sitting together in the park acorss the street at midnight and the automatis sprinklers come on and drench us.

On Thursday, we came up against NYC - Urbana, Washington-DC, Oklahoma and Central Jersey; the bout everybody wanted to see, the bout of death. We lead off with Carlos Andres Gomez, who scores a 29.7. We take a lead of 1.3 over our closest competitor (i think urbana or DC) into the second round where Jive Poetic and I did our duet. We scored 29.6 and therefore survived both Urbana's and DC's guns that they tried to take us down with. We went into the third round with a 1.2 point lead whereupon Rachel scored a perfect 30 and it was al over. In the end the bout of death was a cakewalk, and we hadn't yet had to stray from Rachel's pre tournament strategy. We were going into the semis with all the poems we wanted to have in our pockets to use.

Moment of the evening: Naked foot race in the street in front the hotel; from up the block into the hotel lobby - no, i was not involved.

On Friday, we find ourselves in the semi-finals up against host city, Albuquerque (again), Hawaii, DelRay Beach and Oakland. Before the bout there is already controversy as the bout is moved from the 1000 seat theater in which it was already scheduled to a 300 seat theater in the Hispanic Cultural Center. No-one else's supporters can get into the theater but Albuquerque's. There are literally 12 people in the audience who were not there to root for Albu. In the first round i score 29 and Albu scores a 29.6. The other teams don't really hold the pace and in the second and third rounds Albuquerque and us flip-flop scores of 29.8 and 29.6, so the first round margin holds up and we lose. Albuquerque goes to the finals and wins the whole tournament. There is a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouths that we get rid of quickly with whisky and vodka and the like and because we're really really really pleased with our performances. We end the tournament ranked fifth of the 75 teams and take home our annual un-official title of best poetry in the tournament.

Moment of the evening: Eventually i proclaim emperorship over the pool with a lamp shade on my head this way... "Listen up!! You are my minions!! I am hereby emperor of this pool!! You must now bow down to meeeeee!!!..." Everyone seemed to think it was really funny. I was just stating fact as far as i was concerned.

Tomorrow, i head for Chicago. A bunch of high school friends are getting together for Chicago carnival and an exhibition soccer game. This will be my first competitive match in about 6 years. Pray for me.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thursday August 18th, 2005 - 4:52AM

So i want to say thanks to all of you who weighed-in with opinions and commentary on art vis a vis slam. i'm now back from the National Poetry Slam and had a wonderful wonderful time. i'll get to that in a moment. This conversation was overheard in a bar upstate NY last night. The speaker is wearing a tractor cap, a t-shirt cut off at the sleeves, construction boots, jeans, long, stringy hair...

- he doan like country music, he don't like NASCAR, he don't even like the Yankees, he doan like nuthin!!!
-did ya ask 'im what he like?
-he only like PUSSY!!!

dude sounded so incredulous, so flabbergasted that the subject didn't like country music or NASCAR that i almost fell on the floor on the way to the bathroom and it had nothing to do with the Cabo Wabo tequila (very smooth by the way).

So Nationals - when i proclaimed myself emperor of the swimming pool on Friday night (lamp shade on my head and all)i didn't think it was that funny. i just needed to proclaim something and that was it. But it was about 1AM and the folks gathered round the pool and the folks who left the room we were hanging out in to see what i was actually going to do apparently thought i was hilarious.

While i was the first one to christen the swimming pool after the hotel's allowed hours, i was not (contrary to popular opinion) one of those who was naked in the pool or who ran the naked foot-race in front the hotel.

You'll be happy to know the poetry as a whole was a lot better than its been in recent years. The tournament and celebrtaion as a whole was an excellent one and just about redeemed the whole experience after St. Louis' debacle.

I'm filling time until i can fall asleep again since i'm having a hard time sleeping tonight. i'll give the rundown on the actual bouts when i'm actually awake for real...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wednesday Aug 3, 2005 - 2:09PM

So, the countdown to the National Poetry Slam is begun. The regional competitions are all done and we won two of the four; the one at our own venue, and the one at Brooklyn's venue (which surprised the hell out of me).

Our team is really really ready, i think. We have three tight duets and amongst us, a plethora of very good, very well rehearsed/performed work that i think gives us a better than average chance of making it to the finals.

Still, i find myself caring less and less about whether or not we're victorious and more about whether or not we acquit ourselves with work and performances that speak to craft and art, and the pursuit of excellence in those. Slam poetry more and more makes capital of the art form in a way i once thought - naively - would never happen; and in a way that has destroyed the public consumption (and perception) of R&B, hip-hop, Jazz, Rock, Country... you name it.

Thing is, i still believe that the only way Slam can remain relevant is through two things. The first is, that those of us who truly believe that the competition should remain a gimmick, and nothing more, need to keep ourselves involved. We need to remind folk that this was supposed to be a way to make the public interested, not to really objectively decide what is a better poem or poet. The more we spend time wresting with ideas of fair-play in the forum (what constitutes a costume violation or a prop, or what the best way is to eliminate score creep, or bias in the judges selected) the more we fool ourselves into thinking that one can actually create a level playing field for the "sport" - which it ain't, no matter what y'all think. It is also the less time one has to think about actually writing good poems, perfecting one's craft and pushing the artistic envelope in which we find ourselves. Until we make this choice, the Poetry Slam will continue to grow in its ranks of thos who are more interested in manipulating five judges than dealing with the "truth" of one's art.

The second way in which Slam can remain relevant is - and this will appear really radical - is by ceasing to exist. If Slam was invented to bring folks back to poetry, if the competition was supposed to be a gimmick that lured the crowd in, then eventually Slam should not need to exist. I think we're just about at that point; and as artists at the vanguard of a its movement, we need to start thinking about the next place to take the art form. Performance Poetry is fast approaching a wall, in the form of the Poetry Slam, which will destroy its freshness on impact. Where will we find the next thing that helps us veer off in a direction we can live with before folks start talking about performance poetry the same way we talk about commercial hip-hop?