Standards in Spoken Word, Call to Arms

MN Mic is pleased to point out that we’re publishing another essay by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre for spoken word poets and audiences, to be more conscious about what makes “good” spoken word, and to have a discussion about that. The piece is coherent and insightful- and if you want to add your thoughts, we welcome you to do so.

A link to the article is both Here and over on the right side of the page.

I’d also like to make a bit of a call to arms. A dear friend of mine is working to raise money for her mother, who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Cookie had been working abroad in India, teaching and working with farmers, and hence had no health insurance. The first surgery, there in India did not go well, so she and her husband moved back to the US to get treatment here. Having left behind their jobs, money is quite obviously very tight. So their daughter Abra, who is a fiction writer, decided to put her talents to work for her mother. She’s writing a sci-fi horror thriller called The Circus of Brass and Bone, with a voluntary donation- 100% of which goes towards Cookie’s treatments. Now, that’s the heart-wrenching bit. The neat bit is that even on its own, this is a really great story and a project worthy of investment- both the text and an audio podcast are made available- and Abra’s reading really brings out some of the beauty of the language and playfulness in the storytelling. And if you invest $20 or more, You Get A Character Named After You. I know this is true, because I’ve heard my friends’ names there in the story- not just as bit characters, either. You’d pay $20 to get your name in a book, wouldn’t you? Cancer wouldn’t even have to be involved! At any rate: this is me asking you to help out. Go over to Circus of Brass and Bone and give it a listen, if you’re not sold already. And once you get what a cool project this is- tell your friends, please.

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Upcoming Events (The FB Roster)

by Cole Sarar
Hey folks! Scroll past all the events to hear about some big names that are coming to town, an article I think is great, and a call to arms.

Tonight: Two Chairs Telling: Diego Vazquez & Ann Reay

Thursday: Minnesota SOAP Poetry Slam (U of M)

Friday: Punch Out Poetry: Season Opener! (hosted by yours truly) Please come out and compete or be an audience member.


Dream a Little Dream…at Patrick’s Cabaret

Then Saturday at Midnight: Sleepover Slam III: The Return of the Return.

Monday you get a respite from all the slam with
The Monday Night Comedy Show that teaches us about ourselves.


Voices Merging: Class Clownin Open Mic! (U of M)

Tuesday we’re back to Slam with the
SlamMN! Season Opener!

next Wednesday you have the unique opportunity to take a workshop with Nationally renowned poet Tristan Silverman.
(Make sure you tell them what time would be best for you, as the RSVP is for a large range of times.)

Then next Thursday Night see Tristan with Ben San Del, Jill Bernard, Khary Jackson, and Courtney McLean at the BLB.

I’ll hit you up next week, for events coming up in October.

My friend Lauren Zuniga wrote an article about women in slam, here. It’s an interesting article to me, as someone who is trying to help build more women’s voices in our slam community. It’s a good read, and Zuniga is a brilliant poet besides.
Seriously- watch Girl:Exploded if you want proof.

Next- we’ve got great poets coming to town- keep your ears open and come out and support.
Tristan Silverman is coming into town to do Thadra Sheridan’s amazing new series that brings national talent to the twin cities. Tristan is an organizer and teaching artist as well as an award-winning poet, and YOU have the opportunity to take a workshop from her when she’s in town next Wednesday. The timing is not yet entirely hammered down, so check out the facebook event and let her know when works best for you. It’s supercheap considering what an amazing poet she is, so GET ON THIS. ($10-15, I hear- sliding scale, pay what you can)
Facebook Event

Also- I have word that Jared Paul will be in town in early November!

Finally, I’m looking to do some early October performance dates in outstate MN before my tour with Guante kicks off in mid-October. If you have contacts in Duluth, Mankato, Rochester, or wherever who want a couple of clever, socially aware wordsmiths on their stage or classroom, shoot me a note.

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NPS Semi-Finals at the Fitz

by Syd Malicious, of the Punch Out Poetry slam team

Hey Y’all. Syd Malicious here. I’m temporarily taking over coverage of NPS2010. My assignment (and by assignment I mean, the bout I happened to be at when Cole asked me to do this) was last night’s Semi-final bout at the Fitzgerald Theatre featuring (listed in order of bout draw): St Paul Soapboxing, Austin, Slam Nuba, Denver Mercury, and Providence. Semi bouts, for those among you who can’t count or just want to verify that I didn’t make a typo, feature five teams rather than four. So the rotation goes ABCDE, BCDEA, CDEAB, DEABC.

Before the slam even got started, however, there was some other business to take care of. The members of the Chicago Mental Graffiti team put together a showcase for us. First up: John Paul Davis (who, as a side note has been very cordial all week). He gave us a rhyming poem about a man serving time, a “leaky man of sorrows”. Next up: Emily Rose. Her piece “For My Nephews Jack and Austin–So They Know Where They Get It From” was funny in a hyperactive-child kind of way. My coach has been drilling me all week about this invisible box around you when you gesture, saying that however big you make the box, you have to reach all the corners of it. Well, Emily Rose, my dear, I have never before seen anyone get to one of the top corners with her foot. Amazing. Her performance was large and playful and fascinating. Last up from Mental Graffiti: Billy Tuggle and Marty McConnell read a beautiful duet dedicated to Gabrielle Boullaine and Shannon Leigh. Billy read the parts about Shannon and Marty did the same for Gabrielle. It was interesting in the most sincere and least euphemistic way to listen to the care and craft of that piece knowing as much as I do about both women but not knowing either of them personally. I guess that’s the curse of the rookie. “What no one tells you about the grief is that it has no edges.” Amen.

And then the slam. (The transition was much less rude and abrupt in real life that it sounds when I write it like that, but c’mon. It’s not like I’m a poet or anything.) So here we go.

Observation on the Emcee Spiel: “Influence the judges” is way less catchy than “sway the judges.” Just a thought.

Our brave sacrifice was Andi Kauth. It was a gorgeous piece about image and identity, exploring eating disorders and gender identity using a musical motif and a chorus line of “my body has never made sense.” It felt a bit unfocused because of the two underlying issues, but that was some serious pretty in a poem. 24.5 from the judges.

Round 1:
6 is 9 took the suicide for St Paul with his persona poem from the perspective of a slave who is sold away from his wife. Possibly the most intense delivery I have ever seen out of him, which is saying something. AND he took a time penalty. I didn’t think that was possible. Khary, you are not allowed to give me shit ever again. Final score after a .5 deduction 28.2.
Austin sent up Seth with a rhyming love poem for illegal immigrants from Mexico about the injustice and hypocrisy they have suffered at our hands. I was a little disappointed when it took a moderately predictable anthemic tone about 30 seconds from the end. Judges gave it a 25.6.
In keeping with the political tone of the round, Amy Everhart came up for Slam Nuba with a poem about sleeping with men to avoid a confrontation about her sexuality. “I’m wondering if rainbows are vampires.” 26.7 from the judges.
Denver Mercury followed with Ian D. His poem was about how the country betrays its soldiers. Throughout the poem he recited the military’s policy for awarding Purple Hearts. Wish the surrounding poem had been more personal. The judges seemed to be on my side, offering up a 26.4.
Providence sent up Phil K. The piece opened up with the line “I like this place”, delivered in such an simple and upbeat voice that it made the audience laugh and I though for a second they were going to switch up the theme of the round. In fact, the following poem about suburban expansion and white flight fit perfectly into the politics of the room, but the style was markedly different. I wrote down a couple lines a liked, including “city wakes up mid-surgery, suitcase chest ripped open”, but I can’t tell you about this piece in a way that will make you appreciate the writing of the poem or the strategy of playing it. Judges gave it a 27.

Round 2:
Finally some funny. Austin opened the round with a strange group piece about “the Economy.” Two group members talked to “the Economy”, played by a third person who spoke in child’s english. Lots of innuendos and jokes about “stimulation” and “economy-sized viagra.” 27.1 from the five people whose opinions matter.
Nuba followed with another group piece, about children who appear to be lost causes, using images of flowers and singing to explain that sometimes people really do succeed. Their synchronicity was off a bit at the start, but they held it together. Judges gave it a 26.9.
Claire Connolly was up next for Denver Mercury. Her piece about racial identity and confusion started with funny anecdotes about being the only white girl in her class, asking if March was white history month. Then it took a dark turn and it closed with a line about how insults looked “like a bat swinging. I told myself I deserved it.” Can’t say that I agree with the white guilt but the poem was beautiful. She took a .5 deduction and a final score of 26.6.
Providence brought up Jamila Woods. Her poem was beautifully crafted. At first it was a story about black boys living under ground that slowly became a political declaration about how slavery hasn’t ended yet. Unfortunately her shuffling on stage distracted me and her lack of punctuation and/or inflection made it real hard to pay attention to the poem. Judges disagreed. They gave it a 27.5.
Guante closed out the round. His poem about working as a janitor has acquired some new choreography since the last time I saw it, which was cool. Not the best performance I’ve seen out of him: felt rushed. Still, a more-than-solid piece. And a 28.1 from the judges.

Round 3:
Ayinde Russell won my heart earlier this year at WOWps and I’ve been really excited to actually see him spit. Nuba sent him up with a letter to his son in which he tries to figure out what color his son’s favorite color would have been if not for a miscarriage. When he was talking about God’s coloring box, I wanted a couple more concrete images. Most were too abstract to really picture. Got him a 27.7
Mercury followed with a team piece about John Lennon’s death. The most interesting part of the poem was the format and staging: one person played Lennon, standing center and speaking in first person; one played the sniper, facing and talking to Lennon, one was his wife, also facing and talking to him but in a much different tone; one was a narrative voice who stood off to the side and faced the audience talking in third person. And, get this–there was a mic off-stage and a voice-of-god thing going on. Took me a minute to figure out that the fifth voice wasn’t coming from one of the four people I could see. Unfortunately, that epiphany was the most interesting thing I gained from the piece. It was good storytelling but unremarkable otherwise. .5 off for time, leaving them with a 25.4.
Trevor Burns threw up a poem about relationships for Providence. It was written like an economics lesson in which relationships are liquidity traps because “doing what comes naturally is bad for you”. Hilarious. Here’s a snippet. “When I showed up to repossess myself she sobbed, ‘you know I’m gonna get a poem about this too.’ Yes, I know, but mine will include things like metaphor and the truth.” 27.4 from the panel.
Sierra DeMulder followed for St Paul. He persona poem about Mrs. Dahmer in the aftermath of her son’s killing spree is by far one of the strongest poems to come out of this city and she nailed it. “Would Mary be forsaken if Jesus had not grow up to be the man God had intended to father?” She walked off with a 28.
Austin sent up Lacey Roop to finish the round. She put up a piece about the dichotomy of scientific progress vs the lack of improvement we’ve made as people. “We’ve got microscopes smaller than hair follicles but we still have trouble with words like please and thank you.” There were a couple stumbles and a couple rhyming bits that threw me from the rhythm of the poem, but solid writing. 26.2 says the judges felt it too.

Round 4:
Rebecca Preston opened for Mercury with a gorgeous letter to God, reflecting on the nature of divinity and humanity. My overall reaction to the poem was that the quirky bits (“Do you still listen to my prayers? I’m not expecting answers but I want to know if grammar matters”) were more interesting than the lines that were clearly intended to punch (“How does it feel to be the first renowned rapist?”) There was also a very unnecessary use of “ribcage.” She took a .5 deduction and a final score of a 26.3.
Megan Thoma followed for Providence with one of the most original and awesome pieces I’ve heard here. She used a house flood to explain the deterioration of her marriage. Her husband offers to cut gills into their necks with a kitchen knife. “This is what our love has become.” A 26.9 from the judges made me more than a little upset.
Next: Shane Hawley for St Paul. He brought a story from the perspective of Wile E. Coyote about how unfair the world is. The poem was simultaneously hilarious and sad. His delivery was flawless, earning him the first 10 of the night, and a 29.4 for an overall score.
Austin put up a group piece with an incomprehensible first line. The poem was an anthem about how much dreams are worth and a criticism of how little we sell them for. About half of the choreography was beautiful. The other half was distracting. The piece left me lamenting our fixation on generic anthems. The judges didn’t share my feelings. They offered up a 27.3.
Nuba finished off the round and the slam with a group piece. I thought their pose at the beginning, a cage around Megan Rickman, was unnecessary. I’ve heard the piece before as an indie piece and at first I thought I liked it better solo. Then the team started beat boxing and dancing. Suddenly “remember how to move” became more than a generic anthem. They sold it. 28 from the judges.

Final results:
St Paul 113.7
Nuba 109.3
Providence 108.8
Austin 106.2
Mercury 104.7

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National Poetry Slam, Day 2, Bout 2, AQ

by Fish DeSmith

I went over to the AQ for Bout 2 last night, to see the Twin Cities’ rookie team, Punch Out Poetry’s second bout. It was Winston Salem, North Carolina’s Piedmont Slam; aforementioned Punch Out; Richmond, Virginia’s SlamRichmond; and San Francisco, California (Respect the Mic was listed in the program, but later replaced with San Francisco).

Round 1
The Saint, San Francisco’s opener, grabbed the audience by their sympathy and their anger with a piece decrying able-bodied black men taking advantage of both welfare and the women around them. Piedmont’s Eurydice catalogued the inaction of blacks and poets, repeating “all we do is sit and talk a whole lotta shit.” The slantish rhymes threw me off, but was a tight piece with a strong message. Syd Malicious hit one out of the park for Punch Out, a densely crafted masterwork about deep, dark family secrets, religion, and a family suicide through a metaphor of being cannibalistic spiders tearing at and digesting one another. Richmond’s John Survivor Blake reduced me to two words: “Excruciating. Excoriating” with his poem about the death of his destitute, prostitute, addict mother. “I wrote this poem on her flat-line” and “her legs finally closed” has been twisting up my guts since.

Round 2
Punch Out’s Inky read her persona poem off paper, except for the end, fiercely delivered, when she spit Scheherazade’s hate into our faces as she wrenched a garrote around the king’s throat, taking revenge for all the women who died before her. Queen D of San Francisco followed with a smart, beautiful and painful piece about AIDS and what went through her head the one time she didn’t use a condom. “Death is blinded by the glare of wanting to be wanted.” Gary Johnson from SlamRichmond used vulnerable delivery to discuss his struggle to cope with his girlfriend’s self-mutilation, needing to love and protect her from herself. Ishmael from Piedmont took us through a Rasta-eye view of black empowerment with some hiphop structure and a three-time refrain.

Round 3
I wrote last night, “complicated premise” for Richmond’s Round 3 opener, Chance. Here it is: that girl who was bullied on Facebook until she committed suicide, Phoebe, was hit in the face by a can thrown from a car on the day she died. The poem is a letter from that can to Phoebe, on the tragedy of teenage suicide, with a strong central metaphor of feeling like shipping materials, with surprisingly apt temperance in the delivery. Ruth from Punch Out explained that her exes might call her crazy, but she just holds to a policy of honesty, with a litany of her idiosyncracies starting from her first kiss. Well-delivered, and she argued her case better than I make it sound, but I would have liked a little more poetry, a little less exposition. Piedmont sent Renaissance to tell us that he didn’t want to die so pissed off, with a list of the world’s ills, sometimes so fast I missed words, sadly, because the imagery was great. I think he could work on his hands, the gestures were a little repetitive; otherwise, great. San Francisco’s Terry Kaplan explored the unfairness of black activists throwing black homosexuals under the bus, so to speak, with the great lines, “Why should I sweat for you if you won’t admit I exist?” and “Queer is a chasm that runs so much deeper than pigment.”

Round 4
Milly opened for Piedmont with her piece about her strong mother, her abusive father, religion and herself as a sacrifice, trying to save her mom. “You cannot tell her not to be a hero.” SlamRichmond’s Narrator realizes he’s been a bad father when he meets a stripper with the same name as his daughter, resolves to clean up his act as soon as he figures out how. San Fran’s Sam Sax chronicles his misspent youth and lost friends around a recurring image of brick walls, tightly packed and complicated. Punch Out fired back at SlamRichmond with Alice Shindelar’s poem about a woman, Annabelle, who owned her sexuality and set a world record for gang bangs, with the structure underwriting the oscillation of sex between sacred and profane.

In the end, San Francisco took the bout, with SlamRichmond second, Punch Out third, and Piedmont fourth.

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National Poetry Slam, Day 2, Bout 1, Lowry Lab

Ward and I, your faithful blogger-tweeters, decided to divide and conquer last night. You can find Ward’s Day 2 wrap-up here. I covered the Lowry Lab for Bout 1: Berkeley, California; Long Branch, New Jersey’s Loser Slam; Detroit, Michigan’s Neo Minds/Byte This combo-Slam; and Oakland, California.

Round 1
Loser Slam wasted no time on pleasantries and opened with a duo piece on growing up mixed-race, and the history and trials of mixed-race relationships in this country that got the crowd up on its feet. Oakland sent Joyce with a poem on the anatomy of female denigration, a metaphorical menagerie of a woman, challenging and unclichéd, structured around a repetition of “she was strangely made.” Berkeley’s Trash Can Poet turned a transgender rape into the bigger question of how to be a man with lady-like hands. Neo/Byte closed it out with Mike, who brought a bullet-fast poem to his absentee father upon their first meeting.

Round 2
Lee Wright, Jr. opened the round for Berkeley with a heart-rending exploration of how to raise a daughter who lives on the other side of an ocean from you, with good childhood touch-points like prayer beads to guide our way. Loser Slam’s Zenya performed a piece around a dysfunctional serial relationship, with a powerful climactic metaphor of herself as a diner meal. While I thought it could use a little more fine-tuning, the crowd loved it, and it had a sucker punch of an ending. Neo/Byte’s Cassie Poe touched the mixed-race nerve again with a turn: being persecuted at school for being too white; I’d have liked to see her explore that inversion more, instead of going anthemic for the end. Also I think the judges’ palates weren’t cleansed enough from Loser’s opening piece and they punished her for it. Oakland switched it up with a duo piece about the “gangsta!”-ness of long-term relationships, which had great comedic timing while also managing to be humble and true.

Round 3
Versus from Neo/Byte showed deft control with a poem that started slow, growing inexorable: fatherhood, soldierhood, PTSD, emptiness through the metaphor of a spent gun. It was intense and powerful. Berkeley fielded Jamal, who changed pace with a seriocomic screed against relationship communication taking place via texting, subtle rhymes lacing through the alternating humor and stridency. Oakland’s Aaron put our feet back in the fire with an account of his thirteen-year-old self intending to murder his sister’s rapist, with the knife-stroke of how he wanted to “beat my sister’s innocence out of him.” Broken English from Loser Slam see-sawed us back up with a hilarious and cutting break-up piece, his delivery and gestures both genius.

Round 4
Melawnie from Oakland had a poetically strong exploration of the conflation of nurturing with womanhood, but her memorization failed her and it went to pieces at the pinnacle. Detroit’s T. Miller talked about the nature of poets and poetry, and her guilt about taking inspiration from her family’s misery, through the frame of the alcoholism she inherited from both her parents. Loser Slam’s Nicole performed a dissociative letter to her former self, exploring the life-wrenching pain of body dysmorphia and her husband’s not-so-silent judgment. I tweeted last night that I wanted more poetry, but today I think I was moving too fast to appreciate the literary strength of the device of being haunted by shades of yourself. I’m still chewing on it, a sure sign of quality. And Berkeley’s Lucky 7 shut it down with a cinematographically orchestrated illustration of the circumstances of her birth, with a hiphop feel to cadences and Destiny, Fate and Death making cameo appearances.

Loser Slam took first, Berkeley second, Neo Minds/Byte This third and Oakland took fourth.

Poets: You want me to link you? I want to link you, too. Let me know in the comments or @fishdesmith.

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National Poetry Slam, Bout 2, Artists Quarter

By Fish DeSmith

Witness to the crush of humans trying to get both out of and into the Artist Quarter, Ward and I decided not to try to make it to another venue and dug in for Bout 2 at the AQ. It was Killeen, Texas; Irving, Texas (which was called as Dallas, confusing me and perhaps those following the live-tweets, for which I apologize); and New York City’s Intangible and Nuyorican teams.

Round 1
Forget what I said about funny first rounds: the teams for this bout all did. Christopher from Killeen dodged expectations of humor out of the gate with a serviceman’s account of just war, urging America in rhyme to admit its mistakes. Irving’s Steven delivered a well-mastered poem which struck me more as being heir to hip-hop self-assertion raps, and I found myself wishing it reached for more. Tracy from Intangible reined in the ruckus with a very tight piece about a man who raped her, who was running for local office, a hard poem delivered unrelentingly. Nuyorican’s Jamal tore up the last slot with a screed against hypocritical views on immigration, with a deft play on the Pledge of Allegiance, and many more tight turns of phrase, winning him a perfect score. I will never forget hearing the Slam Master call out the low score first, “10.0.”

Round 2
Intangible’s Shawn delivered a poem dripping with lust and sex as a religion, alternatingly sardonic and needful. Killeen followed with a trio piece, wishing that the world were such that slam poems would be about more good things than bad, but it faltered a little at the end. Ken from Nuyorican blew me away his piece around central metaphor of your heart as a volume knob, using both a framework of the science of sound and sound itself, his delivery unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Irving brought all four of its poets up for, to use Ward’s term, a Southern Gothic piece about a flawed but strong grandmother, respect and love warring with embarrassment and shame.

Round 3
Nuyorican opened the round with a duo, lamenting the lies of our sex lives that obscure real emotion and connection; despite tight delivery and a good dynamic between them, I wish they’d explored the kernel more. Intangible sent Megan with a literal change of pace, a slow and measured poem about a lost love and the eerie defilement of a dead bear. Irving’s Jason, looking to me like no one so much as Hank III, brought a dark and twisted piece about rape, porn, and gayness in Texas, with the poet as a hungry vulture and vivid, troubling imagery. Killeen closed it out with their sweet-voiced lady poet (whose name I never caught) speaking as a dead servicewoman, while her teammates mimed preparing her for burial. I think It would have been stronger as a solo piece; the movement was at times distracting, and the poem and the poet could have easily stood on their own.

Round 4
Colin from Irving initially confounded me with his tremulous delivery, which cohered in the end to underscore the weakness he feels after being torn apart by a cruel-hearted lover. I loved that his tone and carriage made me grapple with more than just the overt content. Nuyorican Caroline announced her poem was not about bulimia and white people’s problems, but about human pain and emptiness, and eventually, triumph; I wished it were more craft-ful, but it was so strong and self-aware I can forgive it. Doc (a lady) from Killeen had a rowdy sex poem intertwined with the need to write poetry in ink, indelible, which I thought could use some fine tuning, but the audience loved. Frankie (also a lady) closed down the bout with a poem to her baby sister, explaining that her father had been a very different man, a hard and unloving man, when the poet was a child, and being tentatively hopeful that those wounds might heal.

Nuyorican won the day with a 5 point margin, followed by Intangible in second, Irving in third and Killeen in fourth.

And again, poets: Let me know your twitter IDs or links or whatever. Look at this thing, no hyperlinks at all. Hit me up here or on twitter: @fishdesmith.

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National Poetry Slam, Bout 1, Artist Quarter

By Fish DeSmith

Hello again, spoken word fans. By now maybe you have combed through Ward’s and my massive pile of tweets from the Artist Quarter bouts last night. We each tweeted our initial thoughts on the poems as they were performed and the score we would have given them. You can find Ward’s morning-after rundown here.

First of all, the AQ was packed. We showed up early, knowing the hometown heroes playing on their home stage would be, for many, the bout to see. Of personal friends, I know a handful that were turned away, so I can only guess how many weren’t able to get in.

Bout 1 in the AQ was aforementioned reigning champs Soap Boxing, the freshman all-women Minneapolis team, Punch Out Poetry, Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s Eclectic Truth, and New York City’s Urbana.

Let me start by saying that we struggle up here in the frozen north to find poets of color; we, in this sea of German Lutherans, don’t get many. It is a mission for each of our local Slam Masters to find and encourage women poets and poets of color, and it was so great to see such a diverse group of poets last night.

Round 1
I’m told by those who’ve been around the National Poetry Slams longer than I that the first round should be funny, and that bore out with predominately hilarious group pieces: a campaign for confident female sexuality from Punch Out, a great mock-stick up with demands for the fixing of a litany of social ills from Eclectic Truth, and a duo piece about Central Park’s crack squirrel problem from Urbana. Soap Boxing bucked the trend with the third poem of the first round, by fielding Kyle Myhre, aka Guante, who tore the band-aid off with a poem about the soul-disfigurement that happens to so many men who try to live up to society’s idea of perfect masculinity through the lens of painful, something-to-prove handshakes.

Round 2
Guante’s teammate, Sierra DeMulder opened Round 2 with her poem (abruptly abridged today on MPR’s Mid-Morning) about a mother’s struggle with the death of her daughter from cancer. It was a gearbox-tearing downshift that grabbed the audience by the guts and never let go. Punch Out followed up with Inky’s breath-stealing poem about the cycles of abuse in farm families, with Alice Shindelar providing a call and response as the battered mothers and daughters. Urbana’s piece was a very well choreographed duo poem about a man struck seven times by lightning, surviving “over seven trillion volts,” who yet couldn’t withstand the pain of unrequited love, using the framework of charge, voltage, current and resistance to chart the struggles of the human heart. Zero from Eclectic Truth closed the round with a fast, tight and hard-hitting elegy to a friend, lost once by growing apart, and lost twice by a bullet in the chest, with the memorable line “lifts spirits like a cemetery cyclone.”

Round 3
Urbana brought out their first and only solo piece from Omar Holman, who also was in every group piece, a fierce poem about his mother’s fight with spinal cancer, featuring one of my favorite images of the night: a WWF-style match up between the Grim Reaper and Isabelle Holman. Soap Boxing’s Shane Hawley followed with his post-human anthem Robot Parts, in which his broken human heart and torn-up human guts require robotic replacements, featuring the line “replace my tear ducts with laser ducts!” which I cheer every time. Eclectic Truth chose a duo piece about being a teaching poet, the struggles and the necessary routines, which took on a sacramental, salvific feel with the repetition of the line “Praise, praise.” Punch Out’s Syd Malicious closed down the round with a piece to her mother about growing up a woman who will not hide or apologize for being who she is, with images of the strength of trees and grass-stained knees.

Round 4
Jocelyn Young from Eclectic Truth kept on with the theme of how hard it is to be a woman with a serious poem about the destructiveness of the idealization of female bodies. Urbana brightened the mood with a duo piece, a poet’s retail survival guide, hilarious, irreverent and rowdy. Ruth Kohtz from Punch Out again changed pace with a explanation of a complicated fear: that if beauty (through a synecdoche of flower petals falling from the sky) were to become commonplace, it would be an irritant, reviled or worse, ignored. And Khary Jackson, aka Soap Boxing’s 6 is 9, brought down the house with the bout’s final poem, a piece about a woman dying of cancer who still needs to feel sexy, delivered with enough heat to keep death’s cold grip at bay.

In the end, Soap Boxing took the bout, with Eclectic Truth in second, Urbana in third, and Punch Out taking fourth.

A note to poets: If you’re reading this, and you have twitter feeds to tell me about, do so in the comments and I will put in links to you. Or hit me up on the twitter: @fishdesmith.

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