May 24, 2015

Nitty Gritty Slam #94, May 19

Tonight was the “Grand Slam” featuring 8 poets who had competed all season, with the winners to go to represent Albany at the National Poetry Slam in Oakland, CA later this year. But first there was an open mic for all the rest of us, with Kevin Peterson as host (& with his supportive Mom in the audience).

I had gotten there on time which means early so I was signed up 1st on the list & read my telephone conversation poem, “Garrison Keillor.” Eliza Ryan made the trip over from Western Mass. to do a Slam-style list poem, on 3 things her mother taught her that she could forget/3 others she doesn’t want to forget.

The virgin Joe Stamp took the stage next with a bizarre litany of seemingly random questions in silly half rhymes. More experienced Ainsley read a poem contemplating a 3-some with her boyfriend’s roommate. Avery did a poem from memory written for a friend’s wedding this weekend “When You Find Someone.” Jacky read her poem from her phone, addressed to her Mom, about being born to be a slut. The performer known as “Midnight” drove over from Connecticut & did a Slam-style piece ending in shouting.

Salina was more gentle, telling a lover to “Leave Your Words” (at the door). Acosio, after some discussion with Kevin about the spelling of his name, & a leisurely adjustment of the mic finally got to his extended metaphor “Girl on a Swing.” Arthur had missed his slot earlier when he went out, but came back & Kevin let him read, which was a “pain/rain” broken heart poem.

The Slam had been announced & advertised as being just the 8 top scorers of the season, not an open Slam, so I thought it was bad form to allow some of those same performers to read in the open mic as well. Although, Samson did redeem himself with a lengthy (too long for a Slam), hilarious piece that was a history of the wrestling champions, a string of in-jokes for the wrestling fans in the audience.

So let the Grand Slam begin, with Thom Francis, el presidente, as ring-master. The “sacrificial poet” used to calibrate the judges was the aforementioned “Midnight” with a comedy routine on racism titled “An Open Letter to Aliens Who Want to Visit Planet Earth.”

The first round consisted of Amani, D. Colin (with a funny piece about her hair -- it is marvelous), Daniel Summerhill, Elizag, K.P. (with a piece he read from paper that was a real poem, about what’s it all about), L-Majesty (his fine piece beginning with imaginary friends, about believing in yourself), Poetyc Visionz, & Samson (a funny piece about ISIS recruiting white suburban teenagers). Out of that pack came the contenders in Round 2.

Perhaps it’s a function of the competition, but another poet pointed out later that although she hadn’t been to the Nitty Gritty Slam for a while she heard mostly work she had heard these poets do before.  In the 2nd round, Poetyc Visionz was first with another of his “numbers” pieces, then Elizag followed with her piece on white privilege, then Daniel Summerhill on what is an artist in this racist society, & Amani (her work typically piles up image after image & would be more compelling except that she recites it way too fast, & seems to filling up the 3-minute limit).

Thom Francis presents the 2015 Nitty Gritty Slam Team
When the dust cleared, it was Amani & Daniel toe-to-toe for the final round, & Amani won the hearts of the judges with a (too fast again) piece on how beautiful she is (true), over Daniel’s moving/inspiring piece about a nephew with autism; Elizag finished in 3rd with Poetyc Visionz 4th — & that’s the 2015 Nitty Gritty Slam team to compete at the Nationals. Support the team by coming out to Slam events & wherever else they perform, &/or donations to the team through — & find them on Twitter & FaceBook.

The poetry continues at the Nitty Gritty Slam & open mic at The Low Beat, 335 Central Ave., Albany, NY each 1st & 3rd Tuesday, 7:30PM (or later), $5.00.

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