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  #11  
Unread 04-10-2019, 05:14 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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I've never been to a poetry slam, but I have an idea in my head of what I might expect if I did. Based on this wholly prejudiced stereotype, I'm not sure I'd like it. I picture much competitive emoting and whooping collective righteousness. Then again, I've never been to a poetry reading of any sort. Not through any principle, they just don't really happen where I live and on the occasions that my family allow me out to roam the streets I would much rather go to see a band. As would more or less everyone I know. Maybe one day. Though I suspect I like my poetry best on the page, under a lamp, where I can see the shape of it and hear it in my own voice and read it at my own pace. A private pursuit.

(Edit: Having said all that, I quite enjoy watching youtube videos of poets reading aloud. I just don't subscribe to the idea that it's better somehow, that the poem doesn't really come alive until you hear it. I can hear it perfectly well in my own head, and sometimes quietly mumbled from my lips)

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a nasty Twitter pile-on informed by what seems to be a Cliff's Notes version of a cultural studies handbook transcribed via a game of telephone.
Ha. Quincy, you make me chuckle.
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  #12  
Unread 04-13-2019, 05:54 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Poetry slams have been around a long time and the scene has undergone a lot of changes. I used to take part in slams in the days when it was almost a sport, with an element of competition a bit like wrestling. Contrived to please. Audience participation was part of the performance. Whoops and shrieks and loud cries of “Yay!” as a good point was made. Laughter at a piece of wit or a terrible rhyme. The people who were there judged the contest. Sometimes a team at a table who assessed response along with craft, sometimes just on strength of applause. But it was always taken seriously by the performers and always extremely good fun. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Gradually the content moved on from the days when lowest common denominator stuff was par for the course, when a bit of juggling or an accompanying soft-shoe shuffle would score points and a “fuck” would guarantee a laugh, to gatherings where good poetry would win. The audiences began to demand more of the performers. I can remember some wonderful stuff in my head and heart that wouldn’t have had the same impact on the page. I recall one set in particular. A tall slim black lad who strolled up to the mike and appeared to lose confidence, looking around him, then peering off to the left with his hand to his brow – an apologetic giggle – then da-da-da-da (theme from Jaws) and the audience laughing uncomfortably. Then, with all the time in the world - “there’s a lone shark on the horizon…” clowning with the thought and then gradually altering the rhythm of the line until the lone shark became a loan shark and the poem exploded into a great, glorious condemnation of what inner city living has become. The silence at the end, followed by the appreciative roar, symbolised what slam was all about in its heyday. “Listen and I’ll show you” was different from “Read and understand”. And I believe it did bring a new audience to poetry. An audience that learned from what they listened to and grew to understand quality within the wider spectrum.

Several of the younger published poets writing today cut their teeth in the slam arena. Some are just writing down what they would have stood up and said and that still feels to me like second-rate material when judged by page standards, and other have evolved into (pagewise) good poets and one or two are reaching towards greatness.

But, oh, the fun of it all. Slam events took place as part of the major poetry festivals and for a while we ventured into the hallowed world of the Cheltenham Science Festival with a series called “Slam the Atom”. I remember taking part with a few biodiversity themes; the idea was to entertain a science-oriented audience. One year all the big cheeses in popular science (Robert Winston etc.) had moustaches, so all the slammers wore them, too. We did not mention it. We just performed as “scientists”. The great slam organiser of the time was Marcus Moore and he told me that he loved those gigs because scientists were so much less far up themselves than poets. (Though I believe he said “most poets” in a “saving your presence” sort of way.)

Historically, slam has its beginnings in the mead-hall bards and the troubadour tradition. Even now, if I am booked to read to a group or function, it feels as if I am “singing for my supper”. The competitive element has roots in the “flyting” tradition that we tried to resurrect on D&A.

I was delighted to discover that the Decima, a form that I love almost as much as the sonnet (I have used them in a sequence, like spacer beads, to hold a collection together) is in itself a form of slamming in the linguistic land of its birth…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXV588lIHm0

.

Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 04-13-2019 at 06:53 AM.
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  #13  
Unread 04-13-2019, 11:09 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
I'm most times uneasy watching a poet "perform". I've also watched/listened to some abysmal readings by poets (always on line/Youtube. I'm afraid to go to a live reading for fear I'll be turned off to poetry for the rest of my life. Then what would I do? Although Andrew S. and I attended one in Newburyport that was fantastic... So I don't know).

I've always seen poetry slams as a kind of animal. Annie makes me want to reacquaint myself to them to see how they've evolved...

My brother-in-law, Paul Devlin produced the documentary film "Slamnation" awhile back that was well-received. I still haven't watched it all. The performance gets in the way of the words, IMO.

Here it is.
x
x
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  #14  
Unread 04-13-2019, 04:58 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I have mixed feelings about it. Ann I was surprised has vastly more experience than I in this area. I think it has more to do with making poetry palatable to those not inclined to think about it, which isn't entirely bad. But, in the end, it's not really what we do. In my very candid opinion.
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  #15  
Unread 04-14-2019, 09:41 AM
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Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
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Cool-- I'm so pleased with the many ideas and experiences coming into this thread.

Ann, while something in me will continue to defend slams, I gotta admit I've never had the kind of fun at a slam that you describe. Events overtook my plans to attend my local slam this past week. But your "loan/lone shark" anecdote reminded me of the best surprise I ever got at the slam here in Louisville. Unfortunately, I can't tell it in comparable color and detail. But one regular slammer, I'll call him "Action," was what many have described elsewhere as a wanted poster for a slam-poet: loud, gesticulating, themes of the marginalized and the tone and force of the protest song. Formally, I've never heard him do anything less predictable or more interesting than couplet rhymes. Physically very animated; dramatically speaking, very presentational. And his whole bit, especially his themes, did what one critic compared to "not conveying any real challenging ideas, or persuade the audience of a new perspective, rather ringing bells the audience was already primed to salivate at anyway."

But two months ago, in his first-round slot at the slam, Action delivered a jeremiad against what he and everyone else in the room either did or expected: beat one's own drum, plead one's own case, as a surrogate catharsis for everyone's predictable social/economic/sexual frustrations. He indicted himself and all others on a charge of Lack of Imagination, in the first degree. One line I captured, "Can you tell no stories besides your own?"

Now that's a question I routinely ask of slammers and page-poets alike.

D
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  #16  
Unread 01-16-2020, 08:00 PM
Tim McGrath Tim McGrath is offline
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I twice took a turn on stage, reciting the hypnotic "You, Andrew Marvell" for the heathens and then, on St. Patrick's Day, "Easter, 1916" for the drunken and devout. The latter's pounding three-beat meter builds up to a glorious crescendo.

I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Last edited by Tim McGrath; 01-17-2020 at 02:29 PM.
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  #17  
Unread 01-17-2020, 05:34 PM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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I'm being the Bad Cop again... but please be aware of the Guidelines, with particular reference to Bumping Old Threads.

Thank you.

Jayne
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  #18  
Unread 01-20-2020, 02:15 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Actually, Jayne, I'd say you were a pretty good cop. Preventing violence is unsung.
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  #19  
Unread 01-20-2020, 03:28 PM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Now that it's bumped again I can say "Thank you, James, you made me laugh!"

Jayne
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