Once again, I am disappointed by what I love the most- poetry.
This time it took the form of slam poetry, specifically the semi-finals. Five poets bled all over four rounds of dismal and frequently abysmal poetry, with a few drops of perfume tossed in, mere petunias in a much larger onion patch.
The person who should have won did, and the person who should have come in last did. The three in the middle should have been reversed as far as I’m concerned.
To me, a great slam poet is one who weds a good poem with a good performance. What is good, you ask? 1) A common theme made universal, 2) use of language, 3) correct facts and historical perspective, 4) practiced delivery appropriate to the subject, 5) varied tempo, temper, and timbre.
Tired subjects: you (your friends, family, strangers, bums on the street) and your (heroin, sex, food) addiction, you (your sister, daughter, mother, brother, stranger, skank on the streets) and your (rape, incest molestation), you (etc) and how the (government, white man, pimp, parent, etc) mistreated you and how that fucked you up, and last but not least, how God saved you.
Of course, there is always the possibility of the perfect poem emerging from any of these subjects.
Did I mention poems about poems and how your poems mean everything to you and you bleed for them?? I am serious, stop that now. Please.
The top poet started strong but never got better or varied the approach. One poet talked so fast and breathed with great gasps, all the poetry was reduced to sounds, even though the poet enunciated clearly, I can remember NONE of them. One poet tore at heartstrings with wrenching guilt and sad stories meant to rip your heart right out- without ever once involving anyone except by proxy- it was a lifetime movie, not a poem. One poet had studied, mannered delivery but the stories were not always cohesive or interesting. One poet wrote excellent poems, too smart for the audience, too hip, the poet didn’t blame anyone else for bad things, and made sense- and the delivery was pretty damn good-
And you know who you are- and are probably the only participant who will read this.
So, like the slick academic lizard poems heard recently (they can sound like the surface on which they are printed) I was disappointed again by the very thing I love the most.
A list of poets I have heard read recently and would like to hear again: Claudia Emerson, Sandra Beasley, Tom Prunier, Derek Kannemeyer, Wes Childress, and Jean Valentine.