September 22nd, Kieran’s Irish Pub
By Rachel “Sweet Pen Name Goes Here” Teagle, photos by Kimberly Lesley.
Apologies from MN Mic for the late posting of this article. “Flight of” Teagles is not at fault at all. Fantastic photography is by Kimberly Lesley. -Cole
When the weather was less wintry and the day a little longer, I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying hosts Katherine Glover and the Dave of Wonders to the back room of Kieran’s Irish Pub for the monthly poetic showdown known as SLAM. Now, I had never actually been to a poetry slam before (I live under a rock. A very busy rock), and I had an awesome time. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, especially sitting next to Inky who greeted and hugged just about everyone who walked through the door.
Tonight, the intrepid Wonder Dave changed it up and instead of a standard first round, each poet would compete in a head-to-head mini-bout much to the dismay of poets and the joy of bloodthirsty audience members.
The first match-up-determined by scientifically drawing names out of a bag- pitted Ink Tea against Loca L. Inky seemed understandably nervous at the outset; the format of this round did not call for a sacrifice, making Inky our de facto lamb. But once she hit her stride, she painted a bleak and fragmented portrait of the hardship of rural life.
Local L followed with a view of women’s roles in marriage. In a close vote, Inky took the round. It was very clear from Loca’s impassioned delivery that she pours her heart into her work and I think it would be even stronger if it ventured further into the realm of metaphor.
Up next were Michael Lee, with a piece about the supposed delicacy of God, and Em with a triptych of letters from “the other woman.” While several of Em’s inventive verbal constructions elicited “oohs” from audience members (she had a great line about lying and lying on your back that I couldn’t scribble down fast enough), Michael Lee won with his river of rich imagery.
The next stalwart poets were Alice and Miles. I’d like to commend Alice for bringing a very different energy to the stage. From her first “Don’t look at me,” I was hanging on her words. Miles won the bout with a beautiful and warm piece about giving his old name to his future daughter. I was inches from tearing up.
The next bout pitted the infamous Rev. Pat D against the formidable Jenn Sparks. The Reverend’s ruminations on two tracks of his eight track mind – namely abortion and maps- were unlike anything I’d heard before. Jenn took it home with a lovely piece about the etymology of protest.
The following match was another close one. Neil, rocking the mutton chops, compared falling in love to falling in gravel and Ezra turned what I thought was an indictment of conventional marriage into a unexpected ode to cunnilingus. I was totally caught off-guard and laughed until I made little squeaking noises. The immensely sincere Neil won the round and was adorably surprised.
Our final head-to-head of the evening pitted Mariner against Syd Malicious – who has already won the bestest pen name ever slam in my book. Mariner’s piece about an encounter in a parking garage painted a clear and vibrant picture, but I think the “man in a dress” punchline seemed out of place with this crowd. Syd got off to a rocky start, but when she pulled out her notes to consult them, the audience immediately started supportively snapping, like beatnik buoys, lifting her on. Bravo Crowd. And bravo to Syd, who took us on a journey of privilege and heartbreak and won the last spot in the second round. “Empty my pockets, little ones,” her musical voice intoned to children in Africa who look at her as if she was a God.
Now the bad-ass featured poets took the stage and set the mike on freaking fire. The hip-hop tinged plumes of Wordsmoke were beautiful and powerful and just mega awesome. Cody Winger and DeAnn Emett came all the way from Salt Lake City with chapbooks and poems, and organic lip gloss Cody’s mom made (aww…). My favorite of the poems they performed was the piece that gave them their name, a challenge to the poetry shelf at Barnes and Noble that was alternately confrontational, filthy, funny, and lovely. “Spit butterflies instead of locusts.”
After a much needed potty break (hooray for Guinness!), it was time for round two. Sierra DeMulder, carrying a wee little laptop offered up a bad-ass sacrifice poem about her end of the world plans that folded in on itself beautifully. With the judges primed and ready, we were off.
Neil explored the dark memory of appliances, and Inky gave us a lighter, wry fairy tale laced with political rhetoric and pop culture. I’m totally coveting her shrink dink robot necklace, by the way. Charming Miles again scored big with a piece about the difficulty of being a good friend to someone who makes bad choices, and Sid Malicious secured her place in the top with a exquisite puzzle of a piece about cynicism and unwanted ears.
I was a little off put initially by the instant and open scoring. It was like poetry Olympics, complete with scorecards raised high and sour-faced Russian judges (okay, not true on that last one. Maybe next time?) The crowd really asserts its presence, booing when they think a judge scored too low and cheering for the high marks. I was incredibly glad I did not have to make the hairline distinctions between all these strong poets, so props to the judges. After the second round, Ink Tea was awarded third and an inexplicable “u” keychain (supposedly for Utah, the home state of the featured poets, but I remain skeptical), and Miles and Syd Malicious went head to head with one last poem to take home both the glory, and the coveted first prize : “The Emperor’s New Clothes” as recorded by Vince Gill on cassette. Hoo boy.
Miles led off the final round with a poem fueled with the heat of anger rather than the warmth of his stage persona, railing against his father’s failure to actually be a father and be there for his wife and children. This poem revealed not only his pain and his rage, but the deep, deep love he feels for his family.
Syd followed with another poem about family, tracing dark spidery secrets and the erasure of an uncle from the family tree. Both pieces were lovely and raw and powerful, and I felt not only moved but fortunately to have been there to hear them. In the end, Miles took second and Syd was awarded first. A solid, awesome slam for all.
So, where does this leave me, now that my slam poetry cherry has been so graciously popped?
Well first and foremost, I gots to get in this. Awesome. I hope to at least hit up a few open mics and maybe, just maybe I’ll get the nerve to get my butt up there and give it a shot. But I’m running out of time – there are only a few slams left this season (sad face!) – so everyone should get in on it now. NOW I say!
Secondly, I need a sweet poetry name. Rather desperately. Sadly, there seems to be a dearth of Rachel puns, and nothing rhymes. Inky suggested “Flock of Teagles,” but I don’t think I have the bangs to pull that off. If anyone’s got suggestions, definitely let me know. And ASAP.
Congrats to all the poets who participated and I look forward to more slams!