It was the warmest day so far this year, so between the sunshine and the impending poetry slam I had absolutely no ability to get anything done during the day. We—a large Macalester contingent—arrived around 7:45 and were surprised to see Kieran’s fairly empty. Around 8:00, though, people started shuffling in, and they continued to do so until the Titanic Lounge was entirely full, so much so that people were standing at the bar. This crowd remained for the entire slam.
Allison Broeren was our illustrious host for the night. She was boisterous, kept things moving, and was louder than the audience, all three of which are my favorite qualities in a host. She also had no qualms about conscripting audience members to do her grunt work—you know, holding the bag full of names.
The slam featured two sacrificial poets, one of whom was Julia Brown. Julia is a Macalester student and recent winner of our monthly slam (which, incidentally, is next happening on Friday the 24th at 7:30). Julia’s poem “Sacrifice” was a meditation on poetry, with a bit of religion on the side.
Sam Cook was the second sacrifice, and he read “Pizza Delivery Poet,” which is online so he can read it to you any time you’d like. http://www.myspace.com/samjcook
Homeless Ryan K began the first round with what I am fairly certain was a love poem. He also seems to have grown his beard a bit since the last time I saw him.
Wonder Dave went second, sending his love and protection to the victims of the Iranian government’s persecution of homosexuals. His legs were shaking as he read, and I’m not sure if it was from fear or anger.
Next up was Inky, whose poem was addressed to Prince Charming. She explored what happened to His Allegoricalness between fairly tales and interactions with fair maidens, but she was so enthusiastic for her subject that she ran over and received a time deduction.
Dylan followed with a poem addressed to God. Dylan is also a Macalester student, and two days before we workshopped this poem for Thistle, our literary magazine. He took our suggestions, shaking and spitting while staring through ceiling (the spitting part was his idea).
Toussaint Morrison read his poem, a hip-hop style poem complete with singing that dealt with the conflict between African Americans and Jews over which group had suffered more. He received one of the highest scores of the round, but was unfortunately disqualified because the poem had been previously published.
Keeping with the hip-hop vibe, EZRA read a poem about guns, money, and how these are the tools used to keep us down. He was the only poet all night who did away with the mic stand, preferring mobility to two-handed gesticulation.
Not keeping with the hip-hop vibe was Michael S., who read a poem describing his emotions as bumper cars, which led to a discussion of The Empire Strikes Back’s superiority over A New Hope. I enjoyed the injection of Latin into his poem, and I brought his quote (“de gustibus non disputandum”) into class the next day. Hi, I’m a nerd, have we met?
Sierra DeMulder won the first round with a poem written from the first person perspective of Jeffrey Dahmer’s mother. Her incorporation of news items into an intensely personal narrative left everyone either stunned or shocked. I heard several shouts of “What?!” and “Come On!” some of which may or may not have come from my mouth.
Cynthia French read a poem about finding a different kind of remains, those of her grandmother’s past life, strewn about her house .
6 is 9 read “Cherish,” an intense piece about the feeling of responsibility to preserve a suicidal friend’s life.
El Guante followed with “Heartland,” a poem that I get more out of every time I hear it. Only then did the repetition of “this is the heartland” really get to me.
Jenn Sparks finished the round with a poem that combined parts of a twelve step program with the healing of a brother and sister’s relationship.
The feature for the night was Karen Wurl, a Kalamazoo, WI poet who was introduced as having started both slamming and retiring from slamming since 1994. She did a wonderful job of balancing humor with gravity in her performance, and she impressively managed to convey both meanings without varying her tone or inflection much. My favorite poem of hers was a list of all the reasons she wants to live in Russia. Throughout it, we got the sense that she was not as naïve as her poem would imply, and then she verified that sense with the last line, “I want to live in Russia, and dream of America.”
Between the rounds, I was entertained by Wonder Dave’s playlist, particularly the No Doubt and cover of “Build Me Up Buttercup.”
The second round was fierce, with a broad range of pieces. Michael S. told us about his desire for G-G-Gilfs (and no, he did not stutter.) 6 is 9 encouraged Chucky to love, even if love means hurting your possessed doll of a girlfriend. Sierra was on fire, again earning the highest score of the round with “Paper Dolls.”
The final round featured Sierra, El Guante, EZRA, WonderDave, Michael S., and Dylan. El Guante read a new poem, “Makin’ Pizzas,” the story of a pizza cutter’s infatuation with a woman he has only ever seen through the haze of a pizza oven. Wonder Dave read about long-haired guys, and Michael S. read about Wonder Dave. Dylan finished the night with a poem that Thistle has also workshopped (he promises he will write new poems soon.) The final standings had Wonder Dave in third, El Guante in second, and Sierra in first. They stood on stage shoulder to shoulder in ascending order of height and smiled.
I am writing this the next day, and I am still unable to think about anything but poetry. Well, that’s not entirely true. I still want to know what exactly “Slut Rabies” means.
(Photographs by Neil’s friend, Colin Welch. -Cole)