A Love Letter to Salt Lines

Last night I went to see the Salt Lines Tour at ReBar. This tour features two of my best friends on the planet: Tara Hardy and Denise Jolly and two more of the finest female spoken word artists out there: Andrea Gibson and Sonya Renee.

Tara and Andrea with Sara Brickman and Buddy Wakefield

Sara Brickman, Tara, Andrea and Buddy Wakefield

I can’t speak for Salt Lines but I feel like last night was almost a send-off party. It was such a home town crowd for Denise and Tara, they didn’t have to work too hard to impress. The audience was just waiting to love them and they did!

I can’t possibly do an even review of this show because of the varying level to which I know the performers’ work. For example, I’ve work shopped almost all of the poems Tara did when we were on the team together so I could silently mouth the words along with her from the audience. Whereas, I haven’t gotten to see Sonya perform for 3 years, so everything she did was new to me.

Instead, I’m going to comment on something Eirean Bradley and I have been talking about recently, the regionality of spoken word. Eirean comes from the Denver slam scene, same an Andrea Gibson. There is a sound that emanates from Denver, where they create highly imagistic poems and aren’t afraid to rhyme. I would say Denver is marked by a powerful emphasis on performance. I’m curious to see if Eirean agrees. (addendum: Andrea did one of my favorite poems of the night with the poem about her hometown in Maine. I felt taken to that place. Andrea is one of the most popular spoken word artists in the world, easily packing venues in every city she visits and it is no mystery as to why. She is the 2008 Women of the World Slam Champion and a spoken word powerhouse.)

I came from the DC/Baltimore scene, same as Sonya Renee. For that reason, Sonya’s work resonates so powerfully inside of me, listening to her feels like seeing an old friend from home. DC/Baltimore (in my mind) is a style based largely on the kind of story telling perfected by Gayle Danley and Patricia Johnson in the early days of poetry slam. If you have never heard Gayle Danley, fix that problem today! As a result, my favorite poem of the night was Sonya’s piece about her mom. I think the structure of this poem as vehicle for story telling is flawless. I write fiction and sometimes I can hear the start and close of chapters within a well crafted story tellers work. Sonya Renee does that wonderfully. Then, she makes me cry.

Sonya and Denise, let's hope they used their combined powers for good!

Sonya and Denise, let's hope they used their combined powers for good!

I would call Tara Hardy one of the origins of the Seattle sound of spoken word. I might be bragging here, but I do believe that the rest of the country listens very carefully to Seattle to find out where the bar has been set for excellent writing. (Along with some other cities, of course.) Tara has also added a fearless honesty to Seattle’s style which you can watch Denise Jolly plumb right now. An exciting thing about seeing Denise is that you get to watch a relatively young writer digging an emotional well and pulling up the bucket to show us her water. I think Denise is in an exciting phase of rapid growth right now.

Buddy sporting an Andrea Gibson tatoo

Buddy sporting an Andrea Gibson tatoo

I truly enjoyed the Salt Lines show and think that they have showcased some wildly talented performance poets in an important grouping. I do have one criticism. It didn’t really feel like an ensemble so much as 4 poets reading poems round robin. They group work they did looked a little tossed together. I think that Junkyard Ghosts and Spill Joy have set a new standard for ensemble work in group tours and spoken word audiences are expecting collaboration. I think Salt Lines plans to rehearse while on tour, so it will be exciting to see where they get to!

me and Sara wearing Andrea Gibson tatoos

me and Sara wearing Andrea Gibson tatoos, feel the nerd love Andrea!

Lastly, I am not big on complaining. I never send food back at restaurants or write letters to businesses, but I officially have beef with ReBar for last night. There is no excuse for making us stand in the rainy snow for that long. I arrived 1/2 hour after door time, at the time the show was supposed to start, and had to stand outside for 20 minutes. People left. I considered leaving, thinking, “I love poetry but I’m not going to get sick for it.” On top of it all, the staff was rude about it. They have that club attitude of “you are lucky to even be here.” Salt Lines deserved better, the audience deserved better and I hope ReBar gets it together and knocks it off. Seattle is over passive-aggressive snobby bar behavior. That is so 1994.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by eirean on March 10, 2009 at 6:36 am

    It’s always interesting to hear another person’s perception. I always believed Denver is actually a writer’s based scene with a tiny emphasis on performance. Let me clarify, and of course there are obvious examples that will disprove the rule, but I do believe there seemed to be an overriding ethos of the scene when I was there.

    Denver poets yell. Oh, we are loud as fuck, but I don’t think that counts as performance savvy. We mostly just stand at the mic and belt out really fast one- liner packed image based pieces that revolve around a narrative arc. There aren’t alot of practiced hand movements or well practiced phrasings or dynamics. It’s just kinda shotgun style. Use Andrea and Ken as examples- Feet planted, no real movement work and fast as hell.

    also, if I ever rhyme- shoot me.

    I actually view the Seattle scene and Denver scenes to be fairly similar but, weirdly I view Seattle as being more performance oriented.

    kinda strange.



  2. Posted by eirean on March 10, 2009 at 6:39 am

    also rebar can suck it.
    if it didn’t freeze off while waiting outside.


  3. I caught half the show (exhaustion won out and I bailed early) and of course I wish I had stayed (now that I’m rested).

    Agree totally with the ReBar points; I almost left. One other mild criticism…I want the Fierce Five to practice, practice, practice. They have tremendous work they’re bringing to Detroit and people will be wowed, but they need to smooth out their performance for that stage, I think. The exception for me was Jodie who was like buttah.

    Oh, and I also loved Sonya Renee’s mom piece. Breathtaking.


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