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12 Dec

I can no longer blame my not getting laid (on command) on my devastatingly sexy wasband, nor my sudden appreciation for women’s slams and readings. I solidly did not get laid this iWPS. I’m fairly sure I tried, a little. Fairly sure.

In general, the slam scene makes me feel some kind of melancholy these days. Not because the poetry or people are “worse”. Most of the people who got me into this game seem to be on hiatus, though. A few probably won’t ever come back. A few seem to be waiting for return to be worthwhile – but I’ll take the liberty of saying it probably costs a lot.

Competitively, I watched two of my poetry idols do great work and not get truly noticed for it. I did some small stuff. I felt a little heartbroken. I came into this competition expecting newness, for some reason… I had no new work. I came thinking I had nothing. I got hopeful, but I’m still green. Truthfully, I am sad. But I can stomach this.

I thought this was Rudy’s year. I’m very glad for him. Please take a moment to tell him he’s beautiful. I mean that, seriously.

More talk soon.

Quick Newses.

8 Dec

The first run of my first book, How to Seduce a White Boy in Ten Easy Steps, has been printed. I’ll have books in hand in a week. You can buy them from me, or from my press, Write Bloody.

I’m competing in the 2010 Individual World Poetry Slam in Charlotte, NC, starting tomorrow evening. Wish me luck!

Love. ❤

Shake the Rust (with Apologies to Anis Mojgani)

5 Sep

So I moved to Chicago. It’s been five months now, and the transplant is going better than I could have hoped. Maybe I haven’t yet made it to the Sears Tower to see my feet levitating stories of air above the Chitown streets, but I have developed an obsession with hot dogs (that is not a euphemism).

With the exception of poetry shows and the rare date, I don’t get out a lot – but I’m someone who partly makes life sustainable on her ability to read a place and people quickly and accurately, and to sufficiently adapt to her surroundings. Developing these skills has helped to make this move very smooth.

Much of what I’ve learned in the last couple of years has come to me from the Great Lakes region. For a year before moving, I seriously dated a man from this area and got in the habit of visiting him, and wanting to know more about his home. He’s the one who first gave me the bug, I guess.

Although I’ve seen more of this country than most, touring all the time constantly reminds me how vast is our homeland, and how ignorant I still am. The Chi is neat because it’s so old (for this country), with well-established culture and a host of thriving subcultures. The city is far too complex to be grasped on a series of visits, or even a few months of living here. Chicago is Great Lakes, it’s Midwest, it’s North Country, it’s Rust Belt, it’s cosmopolitan, it’s small town, it’s farm and country. Chicago’s a big city, so diversity of lifestyle is generally accepted, but the Chi also has a very strong neighborhood mentality. I’ve talked shit on the Chi regarding ghettoization and such, but I understand that there’s a beauty in people of like minds or backgrounds collecting together as well… The racism here sometimes disgusts me – it’s no mean feat to find shows or events that don’t sharply reflect this trend – but this has also traditionally been one of the hotbeds of black culture, and boasts immigrant populations out the wazoo. The endless contradictions of this place keep my mind super sharp.

***

INTERLUDE: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rust Belt (Quick Thoughts on Regionals)

My friend Logic organized a regional slam that came together soon after I arrived in the Chi. A regional slam is what it sounds like, and the Rust Belt Slam is what it sounds like, too: a chance for poets from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, &c. to get together and spit amazing poems.

I’d heard great things about last year’s Rust Belt Slam from Will Evans, so I was very excited to go. The tournament this year took place in East Lansing (don’t ask me anything about East Lansing, I don’t learn much about places when I travel for tournaments). The event was very, very well run. The bouts were all well-attended (having them all in the same venue helped enormously), and the event as a whole always gave me the impression that folks were looking out for me. Traveling there with my dear friends Billy and Andi helped with that, and hanging with Karen Garrabrant gave me great joy. 🙂

And the poetry… I was familiar with many of the poets already from tours and national competitions, but the impact of seeing all these incredible writers gathered together was something else. Columbus brought highly sophisticated humor and darkness in epic proportions from both its venues. The burgeoning Cleveland scene delivered a surprise uppercut to contenders, Chi Town represented beautifully, and Minneapolis’ fresh-faced squad shook the house to its foundations.

The Detroit poets really stood out to me at this particular competition, with blockbusters from Jamaal May (a favorite of mine since ’05), plus T. Miller, whose craft has skyrocketed even since her appearance on WoWPS Finals Stage two years ago, and Mic Write, one of the most talented new poets to rework hip hop styles for poetry audiences. Power, power, superpower. Very impressive indeed.

This is all to say that the regionals did exactly what I’d hoped: they greatly deepened my respect for Midwestern poets and organizers. I’m very happy to be a new member of this incredible extended family.

***

Chicago hasn’t been all sunshine and flowers. A little while ago, some interpersonal challenges came to a head and I seriously considered leaving the city. Because so many wonderful things were happening to me outside of that, it took me a long time to fully realize that something was wrong. My performances were totally off for months: on the rare occasions I actually took the mic, I dropped poems and songs I should have been able to rattle off in my sleep. I was drinking a lot more than usual, leaving my room a lot less, and clutching my laptop like a security blanket. My confidence was shot, frankly, and it wasn’t until the National Poetry Slam a few weeks ago, when I reached the height of instability, that I understood just how wrong I felt.

But one of the reasons I’m a slam poet is because slamming makes you tough. It’s a means of directly confronting an audience and absorbing whatever criticism they lob your way. I also had an inkling that moving to Chicago would make me tougher in a good way, and it has. And it still has more to teach me. I’m looking forward to getting schooled.

Capitalist Mind: ATL Post #3

28 Jun

This is kind of a dense post. I think some organizers and poets might find it helpful, but if you’re not really concerned with the way shows are run, you might want to skip it. I’ve been putting off writing it for that reason and a few others, so no hard feelings. Next post will be a bunch of Ven’s photos from the trip, so that should be sweet.

I try to live by the credo that business is a realm unto itself. For the most part, personal grievances shouldn’t affect money or career decisions (get that paper). Take this advice with a grain of salt, of course, from a woman who’s had a lot of sustainable success in poetry lately, and plenty of instability in her personal relationships…

There were some issues with the Femme Fatale show long before the night of the competition. As someone explained the situation to me, Sheba was attempting to put together a much more ambitious event than those she’d undertaken in the past. She invited at least 14 poets, coming to Atlanta from all over the US, as far away as Alaska. She coordinated about a dozen of musical acts and partnered with different artists and arts organizations around Atlanta. She asked all the participating poets to submit letters of recommendation (mine was by the Mighty Mike McGee). She also asked that all the poets participate in some kind of community service, a stipulation that really excited me.

Sheba’s an excellent promoter. Anyone who’s ever signed up for her updates knows that the woman is a master of the email blast. However, coming from the professional end, when you’re coming into a show, receiving three or four emails a day, some of them tremendously long, many of which have a confusing mix of personal and business information, makes parsing all that information really overwhelming.

Sheba’s also a master hustler. She’s one of the poets in our community who’s worked with sponsors of all kinds. Coming into Femme Fatale, she got cool schwag donated from area businesses, she got gas card donations from one of her connections, and she even pointed me towards the Poets & Writers events funding application (all of you who host or perform at shows need to check this out; my friend Nicole Sealey works with these folks and they’re very eager to give you money).

I also really appreciated the concept of the show. Outside of the Women of the World Slam, how often do you see fifteen female performance poets of the highest caliber get to throw down? Ocean, Mekkah, T. Miller, and Chauncey were among my competitors that night, and if that doesn’t make for a ridiculously sexy, badass bunch, nothing does.

Unfortunately, as dope as the concept was, the follow-through was inelegant at best, and it really messed with my experience as a whole. The event itself was very beautiful, the crowd and the poets were stunning, the venue was amazing, but the business side was riddled with bad surprises from the moment I tried to walk in the door.

*

The Short List

When I’m dealing with an organizer I haven’t worked with before, I prefer to have all of the following information up front:

*Expectations. What exactly does the organizer or organization expect from me? A thirty-minute set? For me to set up a Facebook event and invite my friends? To bring x number of people in the door? Where do you want me and when? If I’m in an unfamiliar city, how do I get where I need to be?

*Rules. This is one front where many slam organizers seriously falter. If I’m participating in an invitational, I want to know exactly what the rules of the game are: time limits, number of judges, number of rounds, number of competitors, cuts, and penalties of all kinds. This is called being fair. Generally I assume PSI standard rules for most shows, but knowing all of this information up front is essential for those of us who like to consider the strategic element.

*Compensation. If an organizer gives me a verbal guarantee of, say, $100, I’m going to the show expecting at least that. If the organizer, for some reason, doesn’t make as much as expected, I still expect to get paid. Even if that means he’s coming out of pocket (that sounds dirty, huh). If I’m told I’m getting $100, that means $100 flat – not $100 minus a door charge or a hidden registration fee. This is nonnegotiable. If I don’t get paid what I was told, I will probably never collaborate with that organizer again. This can be seriously detrimental to the work the organizer has attempted to do, and to the community at large. Big Sur’s West Coast Regionals, a yearly favorite event of Californian poets, was eventually ruined for just this reason.

*

To plainly say all the stuff that fucked with me: I wasn’t allowed into the venue at first because the woman at the door wanted to charge me, my friend Ven who’d driven me all the way from DC and my friend Karen who was housing me couldn’t get in at all, I never saw a dime to cover travel expenses (except for the door charge, which Sheba agreed to take out of my “travel stipend” after I threatened to leave), although I slammed first in a group of 14 and still had high enough scores to qualify for the second round, I found out after watching the whole hour-long (or was it longer) first round that I’d been disqualified outright for a time penalty.

I was exhausted, y’all. Deeply. Even more broke than I’d been coming in, and totally exhausted. The slam hadn’t started until eleven or twelve, and this was less than a week after the madness WoW. I laughed, said goodnight to Chauncey and T., and walked out.

The evening was mostly salvaged by hanging out afterward with Ven and Karen, my sweetie pies who came back for me, but I was very clear on the fact that I’d been burned, and I wanted nothing to do with this particular way of doing business again.

Zounds! I've been had!

Heart, Lungs, Legs (with apologies to Daemond Arrindell): WoWPS Post 4 and Final.

10 May

As an artist, I find it very easy to slip between the extremes of narcissism and self-negation, isolation and codependency. For a moment in that Green Room in Columbus, I felt really alone. A lot of poets had coaches or buddies to hold their hands: Megan brought Ayinde along for comfort, Tristan chose Baz to advise her, Eboni had Falu and Mo, Sierra had Colin,

Sierra & Colin.

and a lot of the women who’d made some kind of Finals in the past (rightfully) seemed to have a kind of preexisting sisterhood. Since I wasn’t repping a venue, and hadn’t for a good couple of years, I didn’t feel like I had folks in my corner rooting for me in the same way.

Of course, I hadn’t been alone at any point, and I wasn’t then.

Celebrating making the list.

Since I started slamming, I’ve had people holding my hand, pushing me to stay in the game and get better. Too many, far too many to name everyone, but going into this particular competition, Tony Brown gave me excellent, thorough critique on the three new poems I brought into prelims, Khary Jackson told me, as early as WoWPS the year previous, that I could definitely do it, and constantly pushed and inspired me to write more, my SF women (Mona Webb, Kim Johnson, and Lucky 7) gave me a quiet room to rest in the night before Finals,

Mona Webb, my first coach.

Copperhead Red and Andi Kauth agreed to be my posse in those restless moments when I was waiting for the final list to go up,

Copperhead Red.

Panama Soweto reminded me throughout the competition to trust my own instincts and told me wonderful jokes when my nerves were getting the best of me, and Sean McGarragle was my on-site hand-holder, meeting me outside between poems to advise me and tell me how things felt from the crowd.

Backstage proper, Megan and I gravitated to each other.

Megan's legs, two of innumerable gorgeous parts of her.

Rickman and I met in Richmond about a year ago, through Survivor, my brother and her coach. We supported each other through prelims, and as two of the dark horses in the race, coming from the same region of the country, the bond felt natural and welcome. Rachel McKibbens, who performed the sacrificial poems for the first two rounds, was a great help to me and everyone else. At one point, she comforted each of us individually, telling us all that no one could do exactly what each of us could do.

Rachel, also being fucking hilarious.

Rachel and Gypsee Yo were also two women who took me aside once I’d qualified for Finals and told me, “It’s about time,” which was totally unexpected, and brought me to tears…

But yes, we did the draw, and lo, I pulled a ten out of twelve. That’s a fantastic draw, for all of you keeping track at home. It was especially good for me given the way the round played out. One poet after another brought the dramatic, the tragic, beautiful but consistently solemn and heavy work. As the first round wore on, I got more and more restless, because I wanted to flip that energy soooo badly, and I began to worry someone else would catch on and beat me to it. Rachel saw the same trend. She kept saying aloud, to the room, “If I were a coach in this bout, I know exactly what I’d do right now. I know exactly who I’d send up,” and I knew we were thinking the same thing, and I hoped she wouldn’t offer that information up to the room. If someone had asked her, I’m sure she would have shared – but no one did. So we had a run of nine serious poems leading into mine.

And oh, it felt so fucking good to bring a funny poem onstage at that point. Stepping out into that spotlight, looking out at the full and eager house, how lovely and buzzing was that moment, especially knowing that the audience and I were on the express train to Joyville. Spot on, y’all. I felt like the Love Doctor. To me, nothing feels better than doing the right poem at the right moment, especially when it’s a funny poem – I can never get enough of that palpable relief and happiness that radiates from the audience. The judges felt me too, and I walked away with the high score of the first round.

Crazy eyes are my specialty.

***

INTERLUDE: How to Be a Funny Poet


WoWPS was one of a long list of competitions I’ve attended that made it apparent that lot of poets are afraid to perform funny work, especially when the stakes are high. This is justified only insofar as we as a culture tend not to give humor the respect it deserves. I talked to Mike McGee about winning his title using two funny poems out of three, and the kind of latent disrespect he felt from some of the community – as though winning with humorous work was somehow less valid. When Sonya Renee won her title, I imagine some of the same judgment was passed on her (although there were quite obviously other elements at play as well).

But laughter is as essential as tears. As a competitor, you really ought to have at least a few funny poems in your repertoire. Take my advice, darlings, and diversify the tone of your offerings. Or else I promise: if I think I can beat you and make the audience laugh in the process, I will do it every chance I get.

I was pleased, however, that a couple of different poets asked me, after competition was over, how to write a satirical poem. That’s a good look! It means I actually did get props for bringing the funny, and more poets are thinking about doing the same. It’s especially exciting, for me, to think of more women bringing funny poems, as we are generally so fucking eager to be taken seriously. These thoughts are especially for those women who want to get laughs.

1. “Funny” comes in many forms. Think about the voice you’re going for. Wry, sarcastic, deadpan, cheesy? Who/what makes you laugh? Study comedians who you like and think about why what they do works for you. If you don’t know many comedians, ask folks for recommendations. Think about your body: can you pull off physical or slapstick humor? Bringing a high-energy funny poem is often the best means of using the entire stage – and if you can do that well, you’ll reap the rewards.

2. Timing is everything. I was just talking to Baz about this. Some people have a natural sense of comedic timing. Others have to work a lot harder to make their jokes carry. Most folks mess up their timing a lot when they first begin to write funny poems, stepping on the audience’s laughter and rushing through jokes. Then there’s also the issue of keeping the momentum up and keeping the poem moving, so letting the laughs go on too long can be a danger too. It takes a fair amount of practice to learn how to play a funny poem to a room (and the laughs often come at different moments in different rooms, so some measure of flexibility is key).

3. Write your poems short. Most of my comedic poems clock in at about 2:30 if I read them straight through. That gives me a full 30+ seconds to allow the crowd to laugh.

4. Seriousness as foundation. Very few poets I know can pull off poems that are just plain silly in real competition (again, Sonya and Mike come to mind). That takes a pretty real mastery of comedy, I think. The audience generally wants to feel like you have something important to say, even if you say it with a wink and a nod. My two most reliable comedic poems (The Body Beautiful and The Miscegenator) both have an element of gravitas: the former poem flips in tone at the end and goes sincere, and the latter stays big and ridiculous but talks about a topic that people take very seriously.

5. Seriousness as spice. Ekabhumi told me that every serious poem should have a funny moment, and every funny poem should have a serious moment. This moment is what he refers to as a “release valve”, a chance for the audience to breathe. Generally I think this is very sage advice: when you give your crowd a little moment off, they tend to come back to you refreshed and ready for more.

***

I had a similarly lucky draw for the second round, and similarly good fortune in having style and content that contrasted strongly with my competitors’. The green room was suddenly almost empty going into the last round. My Rickman was gone, Rachel was gone, I was going first, and I was out of poems I really, really wanted to perform. I did the poem I thought was the cleanest and strongest out of what I had left, but for the first time that night I knew I wasn’t hitting it. It was the wrong poem for that moment, and I felt that the instant I started performing. I talked to Chauncey about this later, and she said that folks don’t really seem to understand just how many poems you need to get up there and stay up there, and I think she’s right. But taking fourth was a great honor for me. I’m proud of myself, and I’m super thankful to everyone who helped me get that far. I proved something to myself that night, and I walked away very happy indeed.

The End.

Individuality vs. Versatility: WoWPS Post 3 (roll the dice to check your stamina)

8 May

Recently, on Rik’s recommendation, I started watching Bleach, an anime series I’d seen around but hadn’t tried out. I’m about halfway through the series now, and y’know, it’s good. The episodes are a little more formulaic than I typically enjoy, but the devotion to long-term character development, satisfying plot twists, and overall badassery makes this a series worth watching, IMHO (if you want to watch, it’s on Hulu, and broken up into parts on YouTube. Just remember to skip the shitty theme songs at the beginning and end).

I tend to prefer anime that involves some kind of regular dueling action (swordplay, gunplay, supernatural powers, &c.). It’s fun and exciting, even when you know who’s going to win. I love the insane creativity that goes into the making of these alternate universes. Along with compelling RTV shows like Top Chef, Project Runway or The Biggest Loser, I find the anime I watch to be a great motivating tool for competition. Characters are constantly saying things like, “I’ll do my best!” or “I won’t lose!”, whether they be doe-eyed neophytes or virtual demigods.

Gonna spoil here, just a little. Bleach features a class of warriors known as Soul Reapers. Each Soul Reaper who attains a certain mastery of his/her (usually his, though there is one truly admirable woman thus far) technique has markedly different powers; these powers are halfway drawn from the spirit-inhabited swords they carry. Sort of like the patroni drawn from wands a la Harry Potter, only MUCH more dope. Kind of like each Dog of the State drawing on a different element a la Fullmetal Alchemist. Or just the old school notion of different martial artists practicing different fighting styles.

For me, maybe the coolest thing about making it to Finals was feeling I was meeting eleven other incredible warriors in battle. And dude, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s pretty fucken extra awesome to me being in a room full of warriors with vaginas. I’d seen or sparred with all these women before, so I knew each had something really special going on, her own power, her own fighting style. And Finals was a different kind of arena than I’d ever battled in before. The previous night’s prelims at the tight, packed Writing Wrongs venue felt, before it even began, like a street fight waiting to happen, where the women who won would have to grapple, get bloody-knuckled and sweat; WoWPS Finals felt as close to the Coliseum as I’ve ever come. Neat-o!

Yeah, I respected and continue to respect all of my competitors in the context of the game. Fond as we are of saying slam is random, the random draw, ranking system, and double preliminaries make it kind of hard to ascend to finals on an absolute fluke. And okay, say Ms. Wise, Tristan, Hannah, Megan or I, or any Finals first-timer, makes it on a fluke. That doesn’t explain why most of the pack stays veteran: Sierra, Dee, Chauncey, Eboni, Nicole, Nitche, and Gypsee Yo have all done it before. On the adverse tip, I remember someone bemoaning the lack of new blood to challenge the seemingly eternal champions of slam, but I don’t see it that way at all. I think a lot of folks, once they “get” their own styles and “get” the way the game is played, are more likely to reach that level again and again, if they stay wanting it (few stay wanting it). But every Finals I see new warriors in the arena, and often enough it’s those new warriors who win the day. Amy winning iWPS last year is a great example of that, and so are three of the four top teams at last year’s Nationals (because no one thought ABQ would come back, right? or that SF and St. Paul could bring some serious shit? but Nuyo does make it pretty much every year).

I would not filthy my presently veryshiny brain with trying to imply who the Best Slam Poets are; I’m not suggesting any given Finals necessarily showcases the best motherfuckin artists in the known universe, just a sliver of the slam poets who have enough mastery of their own personal styles and mastery of the nature of the competition to score the best, given the proper circumstances. I killed in prelims at WoW using a poem that totally bombed in prelims at iWPS only a few months before (Did I get five 10s? Yeeaahhh. That has never ever happened to me before, or since, with any poem, in the four years I’ve been slamming. Still think it’s a dream).

Which brings us back to Bleach. When characters are confronted with a really dope hero or villain, Bleach uses a phrase I’ve seen in other anime series: “He’s so strong!”, but even more fun, sometimes characters say, “That…that spiritual pressure!”, which is Bleach‘s way of implying someone’s really powerful, in the zone, or on fire. What reliably puts someone in her spiritual firepower zone? Desperately wanting to win, needing to share the poems she’s brought, reading the venue and the crowd and the night well, and having practiced to the point where the odds that she’ll drop a line or fuck up her delivery are slim.

Different venues and different nights matter enormously, in the same sense that battling on one kind of terrain plays to some fighters’ advantage. If, say, Jeanann Verlee were battling Tony Jackson, on most nights I’d be inclined to give Jeanann the advantage in NYC, and Tony the advantage in Austin, because they’re both incredibly savvy writers and performers, but familiar turf matters very much.

When you’re on the road, you have to learn to adapt very quickly to different crowds and venues. Sometimes you’re more successful, sometimes you disappoint yourself, but you do better the more you get out there. Touring can definitely be an advantage in competition. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at least eight of the twelve of us up there had done some touring previous to that night – and the high representation of women who have 2+ venues to work with on a regular basis, from NYC to ATL to DEN, speaks even more to that point.

So I’d definitely say versatility is one of the lotus/cherry blossom petals (I’ve been watching anime for days) of slam winningness. This is the idea (that I heard from The Fugees first, righteous) that one should “practice many styles” or, as we say in slam, “have deep pockets” – think of Sonya Renee going from a fist-pumping anthem on a woman’s right to choose to an insanely funny adventure with a manmade cheese product. Being able to speak to different crowds – the difference between the set I choose to perform at Van Slam or Java Monkey. Knowing how best to utilize a space – Jared Paul standing on a chair at a strong focal point in the venue to command the crowd’s attention. Adaptability is key.

But even more important, I think, is having a keen sense of oneself. I’ve seen a lot of poets who have one really developed style do very well in slam – folks who just do that one thing really fucking well, and no one else does it quite like they do. If you can’t beat someone who only does one thing, maybe you need to do your thing better. Or just not slam: that’s cool too.

As far as strategy goes, I’d definitely rather try to flip or transform the trends the poets before me have set than try to beat them by following in their footsteps. They’re likely doing what they do best, which probably isn’t the same thing you do best – and even if it’s something you do better, as long as the poet who precedes you reps okay, you need to smash that representation to smithereens to make that moment really worthwhile for you and for the audience.

If you think about it, slam is just like Bleach: having a strong sense of self and a strong understanding of the weapons one carries (even given mastery of only one technique) affords a person a definite edge in battle. I felt like bowing to my eleven opponents before we’d even begun, because I knew they’d all mastered styles that I hadn’t.

So for a minute, at the beginning, it felt pretty great to have the hodgepodge of us tradeswomen or masters crowded into that little Green Room backstage, waiting for the show to begin. Then we did the draw for the first round order, and that was the moment my chest suddenly felt three sizes too small for all the suddenly rowdy fucken organs within.

A Few Notes on Competition: WoWPS Post 2

5 May

I realize that by saying WoW wasn’t that much fun for me, I was implying that competition itself isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun. In this particular instance, I badly wanted to make a finals stage and I was getting impatient, so it was difficult to relax.

But being onstage is almost always fun to me (except in those scary, scary dreams), and performing the right poem at the right moment is especially enjoyable and exciting. Other aspects of competition can be fun, too: trying to beat someone whose haircut annoys you, for example. All told, the pirate queen in me occupies a very different territory from the bleeding-heart Californian (as some might see me), but when I slam, those two aspects necessarily have to coexist. The excited, fiery part that loves to battle and loves to win, and the sweeter dreamier part that loves connecting with people.

Rambling: It’s grey out, but a beautiful morning.

I care about writing and performing and connecting well, and I care about the game. If you consider games as a means to test oneself and be social, there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. If the recent past is any indication, I prefer to play Bully with John (Survivor) or Rob or Courtney instead of alone, and I never play Mario without Kate, Dave, Bekah, Courtney, Natalie, Rob or John (and we got Dad to play Mario once, right? but Mom didn’t play? but they both played some Wii Sports with us, which was cool. Emily Rose and her sister play Rock Band together, so that might be good as well.)

Suffice it to say I’m actually more interested in the interactive element of games. Khary has a sweet, funny PS2 poem in which he dreams of a “lovely Player 2” to join him, and that makes sense to me on a very elemental level. Maybe because my mom raised us to play cards together, don’t know. But I want to take a second to talk about aspects of the game of slam that I love and hate.

Winning isn’t everything, but winning is often good. Winning even the smallest slam implies a certain mastery of competition, of performance, of poetry, and love, I think. The love can be of the game itself, of humanity, of the attention and exuberance from being onstage, of moving one’s body beautifully or saying aloud words that sound and feel good together… Don’t matter. To do well, you have to love several of these things, and they’re all cool. To do noticeably well consistently, and to stay a slammer over the course of many years, I think you have to love most of these things.

I repeat: winning isn’t everything. MANY of my favorite poets, and people, don’t win a lot of slams, or don’t slam at all. I like a lot of people who like slam partly because we share a common interest/obsession, and I respect people who slam well as coworkers and competitors, but in the end, slam is a game, and no matter how much I like them, a lot of things in life matter more to me than games.

Rambling: The sun came out. Maybe I should go to the library when my laundry’s done.

Cliques suck. As much as I love my slam family goodness, I never ever want to be a Cool Kid. If we take slam as a game to a sports level, I never want to be the hot quarterback who treats people like shit because they don’t hang out with him or do the same stuff he does. The almost completely insular nature of slam annoys me, and so does tribalism; folks have a funny habit of hating on scenes they aren’t a part of. Competition seems to bring that out in people more, but I guess we’re all pretty much programmed to hate on shit we don’t immediately understand or recognize. Losing to someone or something you don’t get or trust feels really fucking bad, and that feeling makes people act badly.

Slamming brings people together. I’ve bonded really deeply with most of the folks who have coached me and the ones I’ve been on teams with, and being a part of the game helps me to respect and connect with folks who live all over the US, and also in Canada and France.

Rambling: It was good to see Sierra, if only for a hot minute. Also, I just called a pouch of Bugler “my Preciousss”.

So there you have it. A couple of things about slam. Careful as I am, I’m sure I still managed to offend someone, but I simply don’t care. My next post is going to be about Finals, I think, a little on the game, and a little on the experience itself.