I’m a firm believer in walking the walk and talking the talk. If I am incapable of rising to the challenges I make to others, then I have no right to make said challenges (such as this one.) I decided to go out of my comfort zone, write two poems in two weeks, memorize them, and perform them at a local poetry slam I have never performed in before, which was earlier tonight.
When I started the Broken Speech Poetry Slam in 2001, the scene was dominated by performers who performed loudly using fairly predictable rhyme schemes and subjects. Those who strayed outside the template were punished, sometimes severely. It took several National Poetry Slams to ego check the scene and force poets to step out of the back pocket performances and tropes. I was incredibly proud of the work that came out of those years, especially 2006-2009. I could see the evolution in what Orlando as a scene brought to the conversation about what is poetry slam and the look and feel of things. Tonight’s slam felt like I was back in 2001 with the volume, the predictability of topics, rhyme scheme, volume. However, there was a new wrinkle: blatant acts of Wikipediatry.
Wikipediatry is defined as a Wikipedia entry disguised as poetry. Also like a Wikipedia entry, the validity of the facts within said poem might be questionable.
I’ve always believed that a slammaster of a poetry slam naturally influences the quality of writing at a venue and I can name several slam National Poetry Slam teams as evidence where a slammaster who believed in good writing naturally influenced the entire team to be better writers and performers. I haven’t quite seen this effect work on open mics though.
I’m not bitter. I set out what I was supposed to do knowing from the first poem, I wouldn’t make out of the first round. I wrote and memorized two honest, heartfelt poems. I’m more sad that I saw how badly performance poetry regressed in Orlando within a single night.
I had a tinge to bring back a poetry slam in Orlando recently. I almost came close to doing it, but on my own terms. When my contact of the venue stopped working for them, I took it as a sign it wasn’t meant to be. It was a reminder that there are other parts to Orlando’s literary movement that needed more from me. I know now for sure that performance poetry in this town will continue to make its own decisions on what it wants to be until someone dynamic (not me) comes along and provides sorely needed direction. When the next poetry slam comes, I’ll challenge myself to write two new poems and memorize them, consequences be damned.
The fine folks at Duotrope interviewed me about There Will Be Words, which you can read here.
The even finer folks at Happy Dog Mom Lit Journal interviewed me here.