Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Ditched the morning sessions of the conference yesterday and wandered the streets for a couple of hours, getting some air and clearing my head. Finally checked out the Pokemon Store in Rockefeller Center. Good thing I never went in there when I was actively collecting the cards! Had lunch with Salomé at Bread from Beirut and then struggled to stay awake through the afternoon sessions.

The slam ended just before midnight on Monday and I didn't get home til nearly 3am. I'm still feeling it today, both the exhaustion and the mixed emotions from how things turned out. It was an interesting night to say the least. Shappy got eliminated in the first round on a time penalty despite having the advantage of going last in the first round. My prediction for the second round was on point as Claudia fell victim to score depression midway through, delivering yet another awful variation on "the slam is bad" poem. Third round saw Shawn take a dive, dedicating yet another lame anti-slam poem "to the person who said in their online journal that I'd come up short this round" (that'd be me!) and going way overtime with it. Remaining six were, in order from low-to-high, Dawn, Omar, Lynne, Marty, T'ai, Roger and that's how things stayed at the end with Roger, T'ai, Marty & Lynne making the team.

And that's where the mixed emotions come in. They all performed wonderfully, as you'd expect from a bunch of seasoned veterans, but I'm not the least bit excited about them being on the team. Excluding T'ai, who I AM excited about and feel a little sorry for, I've got no interest in seeing Roger, Marty and Lynne at Nationals yet again. This is Roger's fifth year competing, Marty's fourth and Lynne's third. Roger's won the Individual Championship and coached a team to the Championship. Lynne won a team championship. Marty's toured the country three times over. I fail to understand their need to continue competing in the slam especially in light of my very public stance that the slam should be about encouraging and developing NEW voices. Honestly, it's just selfish.

When I came back from Nationals in '98 jazzed up over our victory and the overall experience, my motivation behind adding a slam to the format at 13 was to expand the opportunities for other people to share that experience. Back then, NYC had two teams, the Nuyorican and the fledgling Urbana, and an overflow of talented poets. With our fifth team just formed, we've now sent 11 different poets out of a possible 20. That's lame and, quite frankly, embarassing, and really pisses me off in light of the shit I went through in the beginning to get us established - the banning, the personal attacks, etc.

What pisses me off the most are people who flip on a dime from that whole mission of encouragement and developing new voices to that "they should be able to beat me" bullshit. So it IS about the points? Only until someone DOES beat them, of course, and then it's about the stupid judges and their inability to grasp the subtleties of the craft!

Right now, I've lost all interest in going to Chicago for Nationals. Why bother? I'd rather Oscar get the benefit of the full experience and I take the week of vacation to spend with my family.

People want to pin all of the negativity on the slam itself, blame the format of random judges when they don't win and never look in the mirror to ask themselves what their real motivations are. Every year I've suggested that veterans consider stepping down from the competition and every year I'm presented with a bunch of lame arguments about why they shouldn't. My favorite is the one that says THEY are the people our audience come to see and without them, the slam would fall apart. Whatever! If that IS the case, then the slam isn't doing it's job and we need to revise our format to resemble Def Poetry. Personally, I don't believe it is and I am ready to officially adopt the Nuyorican's rule of no-repeats. One year on the team and you're out. If that means they no longer support the show with their presence, either on the open mic (remember when just having an opportunity to be heard was enough?) or in the audience, so be it. I've always said what we do is bigger than any one person, more important than any individual agenda.

Yeah, the collective meeting is going to be interesting indeed...

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as I live it is my privilege - my *privilege* to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I love. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I've got a hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
--George Bernard Shaw

No comments: