I. Poetry Slam, Inc.
Two poetry slam-related things I never expected to see:
1. Taylor Mali is the new President of Poetry Slam. Inc.
The Taylor thing is actually an interesting wrinkle that could mean PSI becoming relevant again. People may not agree with Taylor's positions on a lot of things but there's no question that he'll bring a different approach to the organization and a fresh new energy. Of course, it could also be the final nail in the coffin as he unapologetically turns it into a competition that eschews any sense of community for purely cutthroat strategy and "whatever it takes to win." The inane 5x3 format they approved this weekend, and the expansion to 80 teams, suggests it could easily go in that direction. Check out Phil for more details on that.
Marc Smith writing a Complete Idiot's Guide to Slam Poetry, however, falls without question, into the latter category. The unmitigated gall of this hypocrite who accused so many of trying to cash in on his baby - "this thing that I created" - to publish something like this is so...so...I don't even know what to say about it, really. I'm speechless!
II. louder than words
Saturday's second edition of louder than words was...interesting. A lighter, later-arriving turnout of scenesters than the first show, but encouraging for the higher percentage of unfamiliar faces in the audience.
While the show flowed better this time - those of you who showed up late hoping to miss my monologue got suckered as I already cut that from the format! - it was a bit more Inside the Actor's Studio than Crossfire - pretty much what I expected going in. Lacking any real friction between them, Bassey and Patricia spoke eloquently, offering some enlightening insights that really dug beneath the surface and showed them to be more than simply talented writers. Eric and I interacted a lot better than in the first show and Diane had some strong input but, as someone pointed out, there was a bit too much reverence overall. Outside of a couple of good comments - one during the initial discussion between Eric, Diane and I - there wasn't nearly as much audience interaction this time, either. This despite having Diane in the audience to solicit feedback. I suspect that was as much a function of the lack of sparks than anything else. It's the difference between the funny poem and the serious one and the tangible response each one typically receives.
Between the two shows, we have a lot to dissect as we tweak the format a bit more. I've got ideas - and feedback! - up the wazoo! We also have nearly seven weeks to plan the next one and make it really tight. With Cristin stepping in for Diane on May 21st, it will interesting to see how the dynamic of the show shifts as she'll bring an extra shot of energy and humor to the proceedings. Another friend of mine, not a poet and only a casual fan of poetry, told me she enjoyed the show but preferred poetry slams. "The energy." Lacking a competitive framework to provide it, it has to be manufactured, preferably organically. The key, I realize, is our two guests. They have to come from opposite sides of whatever issues we're covering and be willing to be outspoken in their defense of those issues.
III. The National Guard, Iraq and My Presidential Campaign
An old friend of mine from my NJ National Guard days - Claudia, the aforementioned who preferred the energy of poetry slams - surprised me and came out to the show on Saturday. I hadn't seen her in a few years and she'd recently dropped me an email out of the blue. She's still in the Guard, finally made Sergeant, and recently found out that she's being shipped off to Iraq within a month or so, for an 18 month tour! This is the same unit I was in before I got out in 1999. The thought sickens me on a number of levels. First is the thought of leaving behind my wife and kids for 18 months and the possibility of never seeing them again. The second is the thought of seeing Claudia's name on the news one night as another casualty of this ridiculous war. The third is a feeling of helplessness. The idea that that the NATIONAL GUARD is being shipped overseas in such great numbers, completely handicapping "homeland security" efforts which are already sorely undermanned in many major cities. The fourth is how much I despise George W. Bush and his crooked administration.
I may have found the answer to redirecting some of this pent-up rage, though. An outlet for me to put my thoughts together and, if successful, a chance to possibly influence some people and change some minds. My friend Danny gave me the heads up about this.
I'll keep you posted if anything comes of it. ;-)