There is something electric about a big, engaged audience and performers who are committed to connecting with them. Both of the slam stages have been lucky to have both of those things in spades recently, as well as an injection of fresh voices, and fresh words from familiar faces. Both stages have also been bringing well-known local poets up as guest hosts, in a brilliant and refreshing move.
Last week’s SlamMN slam had the biggest audience I’ve seen yet for a non-event slam, more diverse, and the energy was fantastic. The audience was diverse, with some tables of older adults, and a few tables of teens, as well as everything in between. There were a few new faces feeling out the stage and the scene, a handful of women trying to qualify for the WOWps deciding bout, and a handful of poets trying to bring something new to the stage- stirred up by Mike Mlekoday’s host-energy and Wonder Dave’s high-energy musical interludes, the evening was fantastic.
The signup for the bout filled up fast, which is likely to be a continuing theme for slams this spring. SlamMN keeps a first-comers style signup sheet, which means if you want to get in on a slam, it’s better to show up early.
As with many poetry slams, SlamMN has some house rules to combat poets constantly bringing the same 3 poems to the stage. As poets are coming monthly to attempt to qualify for the semi-finals, and then the finals to make the slam team, it takes a lot of work on the part of the poets to write and polish poems, beyond their day jobs or school, and there is a tendency among poets to perform their most polished works over. and over. and over.
Slam MN’s means for combating this is a no-repeat rule on the first round of poems in a slam. Any poem performed during the course of the season (September through May) may not be used as a first round poem in subsequent slams of that season. Beyond that, any poems published in SlamMN chapbooks or on SlamMN cds may not be used in the first round, ever. This proves challenging for poets, and refreshing for repeat audience members.
The first round of competition was already tight, and it was difficult to predict who would be pushing forward into the second and third rounds. Some of the more exciting nature of the first round came from the fresh forms and styles of the new faces on stage.
Of note first round were a few new faces- M. Griffin’s poem about what “no means”, narrated to a young boy had a nursery rhyme lilt that twisted hard and poignant in the final lines. Rob Martin brought a piece about white flight that was sharp in spite of his soft voice, and Hailey Day perhaps won the unsung poet award with a lyrically beautiful and brilliant piece that did not score high enough to make the second round.
Ruth Kotz and Cynthia French were rare treats who we have not seen much (if at all this season), both sweet and sour- lyrical descriptions. But Michael Schaeffer stole the scene the last two rounds- with a hysterical ode to Wonder Dave in his second round, and a dare to poets to write fresh works in the third round- comparing the recycled poems he hears so regularly to a “Best of the Eagles” album.
The outcome of the evening was an estrogen upset of the usual winners- Sierra DeMulder took the first place, Cynthia French took second, 6 is 9 took third place, and Michael Schaeffer took fourth.
This bout was the last qualifying bout for the WOWps bout on January 27th. Poets qualified to compete are Sierra DeMulder, Cynthia French, Allison Broeren, Heather aka Heather, Jenn Sparks, and Inky. The event is going to be quite the showdown, with a “Man-ku” competition going on between rounds, that is- a battle to determine the manliest haikus, with an open sign up, not limited to men. Look forward to a special guest blogger and a special guest photographer to cover the event!
Check out the calendar for other upcoming events!