I judged the second installment last night of the Fringe Poetry Smackdown and naturally, I played the villain a.k.a. the East German judge. Some highlights:

  • The host covered a poem as a sacrifice. As that is a big slam no-no, I gave him a zero.
  • One poet co-opted a woman’s sexual assault into a poem, then wedged sexual assault facts into it, then went back into the poem. As I told him that shoving Wikipedia entries into his poem was lazy, along with co-opting someone else’s experience into a poem, he informed me my score didn’t matter and walked off the stage. He got a 3.5.
  • One poet performed a rhyming essay about changing our diets to be healthier. I informed her that if this was a lyrical essay slam, she would receive higher marks, but since this was a poetry slam, she was getting a 6. Her overcoming struggle poem in round two got a 5 because of its rhyming exposition.
  • Two poets performed work I have heard before countless amounts of time. They got 3s.
  • One poet performed a poem where she strung together the names of games and game shows. While she made me laugh, I told her that this concept was done before. She got a 6. Same poet in the second round performed a poem that abused “The revolution will not be televised” over and over. I sighed and gave her a 3.
  • One poet, just one, received scores higher than a 7, but less than 9.
  • The audience hated me, not enough to where something was thrown at me, but to where people threatened among themselves to punch me in the face.

Last night angered me because it reminded me how the performance poetry scene in Orlando continues regressing. There was no risk taking. No one on that stage was sincere or gave a damn being there. As long as everyone treats each other as “yay, good job” rather than punish mediocrity, this regression will continue and I will continue to be the one unafraid to say so publicly.


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  1. […] hand, the disconnection is necessary for my sanity (and you’ll understand why after reading this recap of last year’s […]


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About J. Bradley

J. Bradley's is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.

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