Apr 20, 2008

2008 Bethesda Literary Festival Poetry Slam


Every Bethesda Literary Festival my husband and I attend the Poetry Slam, where the bravest poets get up, recite poems, and allow audience members to judge their work. The above photo shows you the top three in the poetry slam.

There are two rounds to the slam. In the first round, everyone interested in competing signs up at the door. Each poet gets three minutes to read or recite a memorized poem, for every 10 seconds over, they are penalized a half point. The first round consisted of 15 competitors. The second round consists of the top five or six poets from the previous round. Before readers begin, a calibration poet reads their poem to allow the judges to see what kind of work will be read, and the score received should guide the judges in their scoring of other poets during the competition based upon whether their work is better or worse than the calibration poem.

I want to point out a few things about the first round poets before moving onto the final round. The first poet to read was Paul, who I have equated to Abe Lincoln in the past because of his physical appearance. Usually, Paul bores us all to tears and the judges attempt to be nice and ignore his monotonous reading tone and depressing subject matter. This is the first time his poem was entertaining. The poem touched upon the struggles of a writer when dealing with critiques. The writer gets advice to remove a dune-buggy at first, then a trite romantic couple, etc., until there is nothing left to the story, except "I hate you; I hate you all." Great ending to a poem, and his traditional monotone voice was replaced by a bit of wit and sarcasm.

Another of my favorites from the reading was Chris August, who started off his poem with "I have four words for you: You Are Not Special." The poem touched upon the sense of entitlement in today's society and how those who are truly special are those that need wheelchairs, additional attention throughout their lives, and other accommodations.

Curry and Dwayne B. both recited poems about love and hate and disappointment. Chris Wilson also recited a poem about love, love in spite of heartache. "I'm sorry I broke into your apartment and stole your shampoo:" one of Wilson's lines. It had some great allusions to the Bare Naked Ladies and their "Old Apartment" song, with an obsessed lover twist. It was quite entertaining.

Tokia Carter, since I couldn't get her first name either time it was announced, was spectacular. Her AmeriTruth Airlines poem with pilot George "crazy" Bush and co-pilot Dick "trigger happy" Chaney and flight attendant Condi Rice was fantastic. It touched upon terrorism, the terror alerts, the "supposed" freedoms of Americans, and politics.

The final poet from the first round that I have to talk about is Rocky. You'd think it was a man, but it was a woman and she took performance poetry to a whole new level. Rather than rant and rave aloud and scream at the audience, like some, she literally acted out the physical tortures--Strung up by her feet, waterboarded, inside a chicken cage, and others--in her poem.

Candy Rain was the poet to clear the palette. Her poem was powerful. It did reset the mood after the lull of coffee and cookies. Free Caribou Coffee is the greatest.

The final round poets were Chris August, Chris Wilson, Ms. Carter, Jedidiah, Dwayne B., and Ben.

Ben and Jedidiah were first and second and couldn't have contrasted more. Jedidiah's poem discussed how education was the way to overcome discrimination, while Ben discussed the evolution from Blues to Alternative Rock when a boy discovers a Blues guitar against a tree and how it is like dying every night on stage. Dwayne B sang a bit, a blue song as a love song to his woman. Chris Wilson's poem this time around was about his students and how he would kill their dreams by crushing them with the inspiration of creative writing. Chris August's poem discussed how love and luck are not achieved by forwarding an email to friends and waiting; it's achieved through actions and changes in behavior. Finally, Ms. Carter's poem reflected on the justice system. She expressed the defense of death upon contact (DOC) due to self-preservation. A man laying his hands on her dies on contact, which makes it self-defense, and it saves taxpayers and the justice system millions because she does not fill out restraining orders and other paperwork; she takes matters into her own hands--so to speak.

Third Place this time around was Chris Wilson; second place was Chris August, and first place was Ms. Carter. One of these days I will have to find out her real name or at least her full name.

The only other tidbit from the Slam that I have for you is my hubby's wonderful artwork, which garnered a bit of attention from the crowd and Delrica Andrews. He drew a Mickey Mouse for the first round and a strange, pierced poet for the second round. I think it made the judging much more interesting for him.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.

4 comments:

Anna said...

Sounds like a good time. Wish I could've heard Abe's poem. Glad I finally had time to read your post because I was dying to know about good ole Abe.

Why was hubby doing artwork? You should post a pic!

Serena said...

Alas, I did not take photos of hubby's artwork. I don't think he would have wanted me to post it. It kept him busy during lulls in judging when the poets were either too serious or dull for him. At least that's what I gathered.

Abe was much better this time. It was quite entertaining, though not as entertaining as Chris August. :)

Delrica (pronounced del-REE-kuh) said...

Wow. I just stumbled upon this!

The semi-narcissus in me has a google alert watcher in my email which is how I found it (woo...I may have to remove that...that sounds egotistical! LOL).

Anyway, two things.

1. One minor correction to rules: it's every 10 seconds (no minutes) that a poet goes over.

2. Ms. Carter's first name is Tokia. And I agree, she's an amazing performer.

I really enjoyed reading this and cracked up when I found I'm not the only one who thinks Paul resembles our former bearded leader.

Glad you and your husband had fun and we hope to see you again next year! Now I'm off to post a link to this for the Chrises, Ms. Carter and our friends to they can see this wonderful post.

Thanks again!

Serena said...

Delrica:

I did change the misinformation in this post. Thanks for clearing that up. I sometimes make those kinds of errors when quickly jotting down notes at these slams and other events.

Thanks for letting me know Ms. Carter's name as well. That is helpful.

I often do google searches for myself as well, so you are not alone!

I'm glad I am not the only on that thinks Paul looks like out former bearded president. I didn't know his name for the longest time, and that was how I referred to him among friends so they knew who I was speaking of.