I Wanna Be Like Mike.

16 Mar

Hey. I just took fourth place in the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Awesome. πŸ™‚

Also awesome? I spent most of my time in Worcester at Mike McGee‘s house. He is one of my favoritest people in the whole wide. I’ll probably make Mike blush a little over the course of this post, but not embarrass him too much, I hope.

Mike McGee & the Tapioca Pearls.

When I was in Worcester, I read a brief article by Seth Godin (whose blog you should check out on the regular, btw), and damn is it good. Assuming you’re too lazy to click over and read those three paragraphs, I’ll paraphrase: Godin’s idea is that genius is actually innovation, “the act of solving a problem in a way no one has solved it before.”

I like this tons, mainly because I endorse the idea that everybody has the capacity for brilliance, that it isn’t the dominion of those born with high IQs or families of scholars and rocket scientists. Godin’s definition suggests that there are infinite manifestations of genius, and that it can and does come from everywhere.

So Mike McGee’s a genius. Not to suggest that Mike McGee does not have a high IQ and is not the offspring of rocket scientist scholars, not at all, my friends. But I’ll tell you some of the OTHER reasons why. Stylistically, he’s become one of the world’s best performance poets – and he’s done so using comedy as his primary vehicle. That was an unusual competitive tactic the first time Mike took a title, and it’s unusual now, seven years later. The truism that, “if it bleeds, it leads,” holds firm in slam, and your comedy has to be pretty fucking sharp to buck that trend.

Poets need tools, fools!

More than that. If, as Andrea Gibson has claimed, poets get paid to “talk for a living,” then let’s say outright that Mike is a genius of talk. He’s good at talking to people in ordinary life, yeah, whether it be by putting on a voice or character, remembering the names and details of any of the thousands of folks he meets in any given year, or by taking the standard slam poem and turning it into fucking impromtu gloriousness. Hit the link and watch. The sound quality ain’t great, but it gives you some sense of how correct I am. πŸ˜› I’ve seen Mike perform this poem ten times, probably, in different venues, and every time it’s totally different, funny in new ways, and it always, always kills. Because Mike talks and poems in a way no one else has thought to do before, and no one could properly imitate, although many try.

One of the reasons I like performance poetry is that so many of us who do “this” well do “this” in very unique ways, drawing from schools as diverse as stand-up, hip hop, page poetry, church, dance, theater, indie rock, performance art, and more. To get really good, you kind of have to be yourself. It’s a funny, bastard art, and it rewards hybridization and innovation – if not always immediately or directly; some of our greatest slam poets have achieved little in the way of national titles, but used what they learned to innovate in other fields that needed fresh perspective.

But one of my favorite things about Mike McGee is that he’s so awfully generous. He gives great hugs. He listens. He answers any and every question, especially about poetry, because he wants to help. Mike got his start in San Jose, got big, and returned to his hometown for some time to help host the local slam and get it moving again. He’s lived in Worcester for the past year, hosting Kitchen Sessions (mentioned in my last post), a happening that showcases high-caliber and developing local and touring talent for free, in Mike’s house, hosted by the man himself.

I watched Mike setting up for the show that night, sorting through Chex Mix with rubber gloves,

Mike & Chex Mix.

meeting and greeting, hosting, talking and talking and talking, cleaning up afterward, and it was then, at the end of the night, that I finally saw it. He was tired. Mighty Mike was really, deeply thoroughly exhausted. That’s when the level of his giving finally struck me, and I felt more honored than ever to be his friend.

Mike's chapbooks. A treasure trove of you and me.

Mike makes the world better. He wants us to laugh, and he wants us to feel important. He wants lots of us to tour, y’all (or travel, at least). Mike’s the one who talked me into touring for real. He gave me my resolve to do this.

See? Iiiii....can go anywhere...!

I probably wouldn’t be writing this now if it weren’t for Mike. He’s one of many amazing people who’ve told me I’m a good poet, and I deserve to be loved. And he makes me feel strong, yeah. To innovate. To see new places. To do the funny. To bring the kindness. I will always endeavor to do so.

Genius may be having the idea to inventing nuclear fission, microeconomics, or artificial hearts, but none of those things suits my skill set at this point in my life. If I can be like Mike – if I can bring brilliance, laughter, love, generosity, and understanding into the world around me, I will have lived, and well.

This is what genius means to me.

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One Response to “I Wanna Be Like Mike.”

  1. coffeehousemt March 16, 2010 at 1:57 am #

    Yes. Exactly. Based on his last post, I think he might be drunk in Colorado somewhere and high on life. I hope he reads this right now. I bet he’ll cry. In a good way.

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