new muse: SLAM POETRY

i don’t read much poetry and i don’t really write it either, but i have been to many slam poetry shows because there’s something so unique about the rhythm, the ebbs and flows, and the electricity created from words spoken aloud. there’s no accompanying music just the naked truth of the words themselves.

when done right, it’s stunning.

when one is in the middle of a writing drought, there’s nothing better than sitting in a room where words are being yelled, whispered, twisted, combined, formed, turned, beaten, caressed, produced, changed and revealed because they’ll sneak in through your ears and also through your heart.

boston hosted this year’s national poetry slam, which ran from august 9-13 and while i wasn’t as a dedicated viewer as adriana, i did attend the festivities one night. i was verbally assaulted in the best kind of way. watching these people stand and deliver whole words about broken experiences showed me what bravery really means.

it didn’t make me want to jump in front of a mic, per say, but it did make me want to pull out my paper and pen and be brave too.

there were a zillion lines i wanted to remember, but to write it down during the poet’s performance was to miss the other sizzling combinations of words, so i listened carefully and hoped my memory would ring true. (i’ve been eating a lot of blueberries this summer, which i hear is good for that sort of thing.) anyways, these poems are meant to be heard aloud and seen performed because not only does the sound of the voice affect the words, but the hands and the legs and the torso and the fingers and the feet. and let me tell you, these poets were performing the crap out of these pieces. from the tips of their tongues to the soles of their souls.

there were three poems that stood out to me, but i could only find one of the poems online (what, are poets from the 19th century?) and so the best i can offer is a cut and paste. for what it’s worth in this limited (read, not heard) capacity, enjoy.

omar holmon’s NEW WAYS TO SMILE

Things I know about this girl,
she is cuter then a panda bear deciding which end of a bamboo stick to eat first
and moves like the martyr of a high school dance floor,
The first sacrifice of care free, blooming life from hips and hair

While the best of us fake inanimate cool because we’re still too afraid of our own bodies
plus, I think she’s single cause when the DJ said “all single ladies make some noise”
I specifically remember her… making noise

Now what follows is a list of things I’m trying to bring myself to tell her
but can’t, yet have no problem telling a room full of strangers. . .

I don’t have a train of thought it’s more like thoughts running a train on random
I’m all quips and out of context statements, a nerd without a sound theory
but a strong hypothesis that you are scientific proof that there are still new ways to smile

My emotions can best be described
through obscure web comics and internet videos since pixels
capture in better quality what we can’t convey through words at the time

which now explains the youtube link I sent you
of two otters asleep holding hands drifting with the water current
it’s the way I say you got this nature that garners you in remarkable.

I’m going to need you to understand that if we see a superhero movie together
and it strays too far from the comic book it is my right as a fan to be upset
so if I’m like “why’d they kill Jazz in Transformers?
What even black robots die at the end of movies also?”

I need you to chime with an “I know right?
an what was with Christian Bale’s Batman voice?”
which in turn would lead us to discussing what he’d sound like
in the bat-mobile singing along to the radio

3a)(Batman Voice) “Hold on Rachel! …Umbrella-ella-ella-a”

This is could be classic like Boy Meets World, season 4 episode 17
Topanga Lawrence coming back 300 miles from
Pittsburg to Corey Matthews in Philadelphia

My mother has this barbwire in full bloom personality
I’m talking keyed a few cars in her day, unbreakable type status
But found her writhing on her back, like spiders before post mortem

eyes chasing constellations of voiceless echoes
her mind a two way mirror with the belief
that reality isn’t on the other side looking in.

When she got out the hospital I asked her if she saw Elvis
She still laughs at that, we all face our monsters differently
just because I smile while I do it doesn’t make me any less serious.

When my father was still the man he use to be
he’d drive 177 miles, 3 hours and 27 minutes to see my mother every weekend.

My sister found her husband 3,302 miles away in Singapore
While living in Tokyo, that’s a 55 hour drive
thru the Pacific Ocean floor or a 7hr plane ride…

Destiny has a history of making my blood line run the distance
so even though your window is 537 miles 8 hours and 21 minutes that way,
I want to stand outside of it even though I don’t know which one it is,
with a boom box over my head singing,

“Straight up now tell me do you really want to love me forever? Oh. Oh. Oh.”
and you’d be all “What are you doing its 2 o clock in the morning?”
but I’d be like, “What? I can’t here you over the sound of all this awesome!”

Roy Sullivan was a park ranger
that got struck by lightning seven times and lived
The human body is a beautiful conductor, our words hydrogen bond

I held your hand, felt every electron coursing the current
on the life line in your palm and had a flash forward of us looking back
discussing when we first met to smaller four eyed fragments of ourselves.

This is complex simple science
but you are the most gorgeous social science
because I’ve been treating each text message as an updated data entry
and each phone conversation as research on what smiles sounds like

10 thoughts on “new muse: SLAM POETRY”

  1. Oh, this is making me miss the slam so much… :(( I’m so glad you posted this poem!

    Do you remember which team the “who are we not to love ourselves” poem was from?

    Also, my scribbles, from that night and all others, were infinitely messier :)

    1. i believe the “who are we not to love ourselves” poem was Urbana. that one was performed at the cantab. i wish i could have found that one + the one that was a letter to their high school selves that was performed at the second venue.

      that’s funny you say my notes are neat because, for me, that’s really messy! why, yes, i am anal retentive about my handwriting. why do you ask?

  2. You know, I’ve never been to a slam poetry show before. This lovely wording…

    “there’s nothing better than sitting in a room where words are being yelled, whispered, twisted, combined, formed, turned, beaten, caressed, produced, changed and revealed because they’ll sneak in through your ears and also through your heart.”

    …makes me think I should give it a try. Unfortunately, not too many of them around where I live.

    1. Look at you, Grandpa, with the abundance of capital letters! Slam poetry brings it out in everyone, it seems. ;)

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