A good friend to the slam scene, Lindsey McDonald Dorsey is a regular installation in the Minneapolis comedy and improv scenes. As she was assisting slammaster Wonder Dave with time/score on Tuesday night, I took advantage of her kindness and also got her to contribute her impressions of the slam to the MN Mic blog! -Cole
As a relative newcomer to slams, something that amazes me about every one is how unified they feel, seemingly in spite of their inherently random nature. Poets representing a wide variety of styles and experiences are thrown into a bag together and drawn out to determine the running order, making the themes that emerge and recur and radiate outward a small miracle; an extra-dimensional connect-the-dots that, if completed, might resemble the archetypal human being. Or a lumpy star. Those puzzles are pretty vague sometimes. Either way, there is a wholeness that happens almost by itself, and it is super cool.
For this season opener, hosted by the illustrious Wonder Dave, there were only seven poets competing. It was decided there would be no cuts after the first round, so everyone got to perform at least two poems.
After a lovely sacrifice to the scoring gods by Sierra DeMulder, the real competition started with Cynthia French, who used pop-cultural check points to mark time in a history of her Junior High years. Her second round follow-up was a crowd favorite about being sex-crazed, with the most convincing waver-y voiced mania this side of a creepy horror-flick kid, and the kind of humor so huge it fills up the room like helium and leaves you stuck in a giddy balloon.
Also exploring youth in the first round was Rob, with a sweet, longing recollection of a first love, using subtle imagery to evoke the barriers between two young men. His second poem addressed fresher relationship wounds in the form of a letter (or letters) to “Jenny,” with the frenzied sincerity of someone still fading in and out of denial that it’s over.
6 is 9 took a more macabre view of love, saving it for the result of his own future autopsy after a journey through several deaths that were icky-in-a-good-and-by-good-I-mean-elegantly-provocative-way. In the next round he also juxtaposed love and violent images, though more a violence of emotion this time, in a list of women who’ve had an impact on his life.
Next up was Rev. Pat D. His piece was about the recently deceased and much brouhaha-ed Michael Jackson, so he did not have to venture far to traverse the borders of indelicacy, as is his specialty. His follow-up was about weather and t-shirts, and contained several of the more charming euphemisms for lady bits. He did earn one fan among the judges, getting a 9.x from them in both rounds, so, yeah, there you go.
On the artful end of the spectrum, Inky took a whimsical look at the consequences of a deadly flu, setting a little hypothetical fire under the results of a Facebook quiz to see what would happen if they boiled over into the physical world. Her second piece conjured a moody, understatedly sexy pocket-sized Chicago.
Jenn Sparks first took on the stereotype of the Jewish princess, tore it apart, taped it back together and redefined it, calling on heroines of the Torah. In the next round, she spoke directly to popular thought about bulimia, addressing societal thoughtlessness with focused fury. Both poems were well-crafted and powerfully delivered. Neither scored well. Judging is, of course, a matter of opinion, but I have one of those too; my theory is that at least a couple of the judges didn’t like being shoved so hard and so far outside the realm of their own experience. Or maybe I’m being condescending by making assumptions like that. Clearly the only way to solve this one is for you, the reader, to show up at the next event featuring Ms. Sparks and hope that she will perform these pieces again, so you may draw your own conclusions.
Kaylee Harles closed out the first round with a sharp, honest piece about addiction that balanced the bleak reality of the situation with a keen edge of humor, all the while interweaving the myth of Atlas. After a slightly ironic smoke break/intermission, she opened the second round with a snippet of song that segued into a commanding indictment of men who believe lesbianism is simply another kink for them to consume, and of those who stay silent in the face of such men.
The third and final round was a head to head showdown between the top scorers, 6 is 9 and Kaylee Harles. After a coin toss, 6 is 9 went first, and had the audience at his mercy with a graphic, action-packed epistolary account of the world’s end in 2012, complete with zombies and lasers, and rounded off with a startlingly poignant turn at the end. In less than three minutes, he spun a more complete and satisfying narrative than most films do at forty times that length. It was hardcore.
Following a disclaimer that the piece was not directed at this audience in particular, Ms. Harles closed the night with a reminder that poets are people too, and when you judge their work from a safe distance, you are in many cases dealing with something they have lived through, so keep your minds open, folks.
After a moment of tense tabulation, 6 is 9 emerged the victor, with Kaylee Harles taking second and third place going to Rob. It was altogether a full, diverse and exciting night of poetry that bodes well for the season to come!
-Lindsey McDonald Dorsey
Lindsey can be found at http://lindseymcdd.blogspot.com/