This week, I’m proud to offer the following Seattle Poetry Slam Wrap Up by Seattle poet and guest blogger, Dane Kuttler! In case you haven’t heard, the Seattle Poetry Slam is happily settled into its new venue and night, and next week is our second semi-final of the slam season!
Seattle Poetry Slam
every Tuesday night
21+, 8pm sign-up, $5
Dane Kuttler writes:
I admit it. Before I moved to Seattle, I checked Karen’s blog every Thursday morning for the slam commentary with the same delight that some people have over the Sunday Times crossword puzzle. When I moved to Seattle, and the updates promptly stopped, I was a little sad, but figured she’d get back to it eventually, after publishing two books and setting up her tour, and going to Nationals with the Seattle team, and holding her position as writer-in-residence at Seattle’s most well-known writer’s hangout and…and…and.
Karen just doesn’t stop, people. We were talking about this yesterday (after she spent a lovely hour working through some pieces with me), and she suggested I write the slam commentary this week.
Moi? Lil’ ol’ me?
Yeah! Let’s do it!
Tonight’s double header feature rose from the tempting wonderland that is the Bay Area and spun us into a tizzy with a head-to-head feature. Jason Bayani and Jaylee Alde delivered a high-powered set nearly entirely off-mike (impressive, gentlemen! I could hear every word!), complete with love poems, funny poems, history/identity poems – even a few dance moves.
Jason opened with a piece about being a first-generation immigrant kid, trying to figure out the balance between assimilation and resistance that went straight to my heart. Jaylee followed, charming the hell out of the audience with a love poem. “When they ask where I’d like to be right now / I’d say in my lover’s ribcage / that’s where I keep my lighthouse.” Another highlight was Jason’s piece about his brother, the b-boy. He described his group of friends trying to breakdance, “like heroin addicts taking a tumbling class.” And then promptly flipped the energy 180 degrees and broke our hearts with the image of his brother sleeping in the family’s driveway, trying to prove to himself that he loved dancing as much as his Hungarian dancer friends, who had to sleep in the street every night in order to do what they loved.
The pair moved back and forth with seamless, complimentary energy that kept the show moving. It seemed like one of the shortest features in recent memory, but my watch said they were right on time. It was a tight, well-performed show.
Commentary on the open mic:
Martin – a crush poem to his barista, titled “My Barista.” Martin’s thick Aussie accent and excellent rhyme skills had the room rolling.
Jack McCarthy – new piece, “American Menu.” It was Jack classic, featuring unlikely snippets of patriotism “I love my country like I love my kids – I hate to see either of them go down the wrong path” and old men crying. Specifically, Jack crying. I love that man.
G-d’s Lovesong – not her first time on the Seattle Slam stage, this spitfire poet from Virginia did a piece about trying to break up with “Such a Lame-Ass Man” but being unable to let him go (come on people, get the acronym!). Triumphant, delightful work.
Marc – a piece titled “Shrapnel” that spun with sharp images. Notable line “reclaim the edges on which I used to balance.”
Melissa Queen – “Dear Dr. Breyer DDS” – a letter to her dentist about dreams?! How in the universe did she make that work so well? Dream poems are notoriously hard to pull off (much surrealism in general is hard to pull off), but Melissa did a fantastic job keeping the narrative going, and keeping the crowd right with her. Confident, excellent work.
Eddie Z – an Eddie classic on “fast food –faster food – fastest food –fascist food” Eddie has a great sense of timing that really got the crowd going. People were clapping and reciting along with him – kudos to your stagemanship, Eddie!
Greg Bee- closed out the night with a softer, sweet piece about tattoos and wisdom that reminded me oh so much of a Ryk McIntyre piece that I love dearly. Remind me to bring it next time, Greg!
Notes on the Open Slam
It was a big one – ten people!
Sacrifice: Barton Jackson – personal pornstar piece. Lovely moment of vulnerability when he uses the line “What’s my motivation?” with a lover. Would love to see more of those moments in his work. 23.2
Alex Russel – a piece about a girl he met and mentored with in juvenile detention. Good descriptions of helplessness, an acknowledgement that no one can write away pain, but we do it anyway because it helps. I hope he comes back and keeps writing. 23.5
Dane Kuttler – eh. I did a poem. 24.1
Steven Wilbur – An up-and-coming favorite among the younger set, Steven exploded the scores with “What the Plutonium Atom Would’ve Said.” that played on the inherently creative and destructive properties of science’s atoms and the bible’s Adam. One of my favorites from Steven. 28.8
Irene Sanchez – in her first slam, ever, Irene lets loose with a brave, anthemic piece about how writing helped her get through the hard stuff. Good job, Irene! Keep coming back! 20.9
Sara Brickman – I felt so lucky tonight, because everyone seemed to be doing my favorite pieces. In Sara’s case, “Marsha P Johnson to Carrie Prejean,” a study on the construction of women, rocked my world. I thought I heard a couple new edits – if I’m right, I really, really liked them. If not, well, it’s a fantastic piece, and I hear new things every time I listen! Sara took a .5 time penalty for a total score of 28.2
Morris Stegosaurus – the “End of the World” poem. Trying to encapsulate a Morris poem never does it justice. He’s a masterful performer, who surrounds the audience with sound as much as words, high-energy and precise gesture. I think of Morris’s work like pieces of giant abstract art – they’re supposed to give you a feeling, not a narrative. Nice work. 26.3
Mark Anderson – the young man from Spokane graces the Seattle stage again. I love how, in his piece about eyeing a woman from the back of a motorcycle, Mark calls attention to the uncomfortable aspects of himself. When discovering that the woman he’s looking at isn’t very pretty, he doesn’t look twice. He tells himself this is because he’s in love; any other reason would make him “just like the rest.” A powerful moment. 29.0
Dain Michael Down– the next revision of his piece “Sum of my Pounds.” Brave poet. Some excellent lines – “this is not a slow-motion suicide” and “marching towards an elephant graveyard.” It’s honest. It’s striking. No one else is writing about it right now. It’s excellent, hard work. 28.5
Mende Smith – a narrative piece about her son’s conception in a convent-run hostel. “I do not regret him,” she says towards the end, a powerful counterpoint to what otherwise might be a poem about something she’d rather not have done. Maybe. I’m not sure. Gives me something to think about. 21.8
Dain Michael Down – breaks out the zombie poem, but his heart’s not quite in it. Still well-crafted and lots of fun – just maybe not the night for it? 23.9
Mark Anderson – a piece about the death of a mother. Mark showed off his poet skills with a series of internal rhymes and brilliant cadences. That guy knows how to use sound – he should team up with Morris and brainstorm. They do totally different things, but use sound in similarly brilliant ways. 28.3
Morris– “What to do in the event of a plane crash.” One of my favorite Morris pieces! (Really, how lucky was I last night?) A series of step-by-step instructions, including my favorite: PANIC! Well received. 26.8
Sara Brickman – “If I were a man” another study on the construction of gender. Brilliant. 29.5
Steven Wilbur– “Things I Would do for Love” (seriously, a conspiracy is at work – everyone did my absolute favorite pieces!). Steven’s twister that goes from funny to heartbreak in just one line – you can see it on his face. It’s wrenching. It’s beautiful. 27.4
Mark Anderson– Again, I admire Mark for the way he’s able to call himself out in a poem. “the things I deep down dream for / disgust me,” he says in the middle of a poem about a victimized woman. 29.8
Sara Brickman – the one I call “the nautical piece” – using imagery from Noah to Magellan, the speaker addresses the problem of “navigating [her] fears by starlight.” Beautiful. 28.8
Steven Wilbur – a brand-new piece personifying Departure. Lovely concept, and he really brought the crowd along for the extended metaphor. Good work, Steven! 27.9
From here, Sara and Mark go on to compete in next week’s semi-finals at Re-Bar! Can’t wait to see you there!
Correspondent for Karen Finneyfrock Slam News