Friday, August 6, 2010

NPS Day 4

You'll notice I missed day 3. Sorry about that. I remember an awesome Head to Head Haiku event that went down to the wire between RC Weslowski and Patrick Shaugnessy, with Patrick S. coming out on top.

Day 4 events in which I took part:

Masquerade Open Mic: Consisting of nothing but persona poems (except for a couple of people who were confused by exactly what that means), this was one of the best readings I've been to at NPS. I put up "There will be no reinvention of the wheel" to some generally good responses (including one funny one - at one of the points where I "break down," someone in the audience actually yelled out, in a helpful voice, keep it together. As if I actually feel emotion during that piece.). Mckendy did his mermaid poem, a brief piece that was a smart move near the end of the lineup. Tim didn't get to go, which sucked.

Nerd Slam: Generally a good time. Some questions/nerds took way too long, but all in all it was a good time. Well-hosted, good nerd poems once the competitive rounds were over, fun prizes. Once again, Tim did not get to go, which sucked. I wanted to hear "Fraggle Uprising."

Our bout against Denver - Mercury, Dallas - Poetry Grind, and Team Orlando:

We sent up Tim in the first round to do "Prepared Batman." I think it was a smart choice, with Denver kicking things off with a very serious poem and Dallas shifting the energy to lighthearted with a love poem. One of the judges agreed, rewarding Tim with a high score, but the reaction from the others was less than stellar. I think Tim got robbed a bit, but he did a great rendition of the piece. SFOD at the end of round 1: 4th place.

In the second round, we went serious ourselves, but a different kind of serious from what everybody else was doing. Looking to change the energy, we put up Mckendy with "Dracula to Mina Harker." It's a slow burn of a piece, almost crawling, but very sexy. Other poets turned to us and indicated hairs going up on the backs of their arms once Mckendy finished, but again, the judges weren't having it. They wanted political messages, and at the end of round two we were still bringing up the rear.

Third round, we leveraged the recent Prop 8 judgment, putting up Krista Mosca with "Trans," going for both intellectual and emotional energy. Krista got not only our highest score so far, putting the bout back within reach, but a number of hugs on her way back to the table. Vulnerability paid off, though we were still in fourth place.

We had the last slot in the fourth round, always a good place to be for something energetic, so Mark sent me up with "ADD TV." The team tells me I knocked the place dead, which is nice to hear, and more pertinent to the scoring portion of this entry, I got the high score of the bout, enough to put us into third place.

We didn't make semis, but we impressed the hell out of the poets we went up against. I have no complaints, and plenty of happies.

Perhaps more thoughts tomorrow. I'm off to the comedy open mic, the Legends showcase, and, later on, to support one or more NorthBEAST teams in semis (there are three this year). Group piece finals tonight, and of course Underground Indies looms on the horizon - Krista is representing us in them this year.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

NPS Day 2

First things first. We won our first bout, and we were not up against slouch teams. Austin Neo Soul, Columbus Writers Block, and Pittsburgh Steel City Slam. I repeat: for the first time since it's been competing at the National Poetry Slam, Slam Free or Die took first place in a bout.

We decided to go big right off the bat. We were up second in the first round, following Writers Block. "Language (language)," our sign language team piece, made its national debut and rocked pretty hard. It wasn't the top scoring piece of the night, but it A) put us into first place by the end of the first round and B) caused a bunch of other poets to come up to Beau, Mckendy, and me after the bout and talk about how cool it was. I'm extremely proud.

Having established that we could put up intellectual poems, Mark changed things up for the second round and sent Krista up with "Scarecrow," a harrowing poem about a woman in an abusive relationship who (and here's the twist that makes it different than the many, many abusive relationship pieces you'll see in slam) is actually proud of the "attention" she receives. The audience got shivers, and Krista was actually tearing up by time she left the stage - that's how much she put into it. Quantitative result: we were still in first after the second round.

The general tone of the bout had been serious, and the third round proved no different. Beau took his turn and literally brought some members of the audience to tears with a choked-up rendition of "Kylie." When I say literally, I mean literally. There was even a poet who caught up with us later at the Encyclopedia Show, half an hour later, and told us that he'd been crying by the end of Beau's piece. Once again, we had maintained our lead as well.

Mckendy finished us off with his basketball/absent fathers poem. My apologies all around - I can't remember the title. He was alternately in awe and snarling, and the combination kept us in the lead by something like .3 points. I believe that .6 separated first from third at the end of the night, with Neo Soul in second and Writers Block in third. Mckendy built masterfully on the poem that preceded him, a racial call to arms, adding nuance and emotional levels to what the judges could see.

So there you go. I'm not quoting from people's poems, because my mind went kablooey as soon as we realized we'd won. It's a general description of our own efforts, but it's what I can do. For the first time in its NPS history, Slam Free or Die has taken a 1 spot. Wish us luck for Thursday night.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

NPS Day 1

I can't complain about my drive. I left Martin on Sunday morning and, after some construction and a wrong turn, ended at my in-laws' in Waterloo, IA Sunday evening. I helped my father-in-law load a truck with a bunch of stuff (furniture, memory boxes, etc) he's bringing down to Kate while I'm at the National Poetry Slam. After spending the night, I finished off the 3-4 hour trip to St. Paul and waited for the rest of the team to arrive. The reason I can't complain is that I got to sleep. Everybody else drove the 26 hours from New Hampshire straight through.

Registration and orientation went smoothly. I met up with the Art Amok folks. Their fearless leader, Karen G, stuck with Slam Free or Die during most of the 24/7 fundraiser, so it was nice to meet her in person. There was first-night partying to be had, but Tim and I retired to the hotel room I'd booked away from the action. We've got two hotel rooms - one at the host hotel, intended to be at the center of everything, and one a couple miles away, intended to be the rest room. I'll be manning it (and sleeping soundly) while we're here.

Tonight is our first bout. It's a doozy. Columbus Writer's Block, Austin Neo Soul and Pittsburgh Steel City Slam. We're going into it with a lot of different possibilities for pieces, but everybody is ready to do any poem at any moment.

Afterwards/afterhours is the Encyclopedia Show, which nobody wants to miss. It'll be a late night, but should be a very good one.

Further reports tomorrow morning.