I’m off to France again in May for the COUPE DE LA LIGUE SLAM DE FRANCE http://coupe.ligueslamdefrance.fr/ , one of France’s many slam festivals. I’m going to try to start blogging again to keep folks informed about the trip. Let’s see if I can be disciplined enough to do so.
Meanwhile, the Green Mill Uptown Poetry Slam continues to roar on. This Sunday New York’s KissPunchPOem ensemble will perform excerpts from their show and also from New York Marie-Elizabeth Taylor will do set. And a special cameo appearance by slam legend ALLAN WOLFE.
See you there or be dubbed square.]]>
THIS SUNDAY (JAN 15 ) at the MILL
Singer/songwriter NAOMI ASHLEY and her full band Cathie Van Wert –violin; Andon Davis – guitar; Michael Kraniak – bass; Paul Bivans – drums
Naomi Ashley is a dazzling performer who brings her songs to startling, vibrant life. Her songs – ranging from hilarious to heartbreaking – are intimate, plainspoken and gorgeously sung — drawing on the American folk, blues and country traditions which surge with all the contradictory impulses of real, imperfect life. Naomi, who has been playing the slam for nearly a decade, will be bringing out old favorites (Blind Mute Torso of Love, anyone?) along with some brand new songs. Her rocking band consists of some of Chicago’s finest, hardest working musicians. Cathie Van Wert, violin. Andon Davis, guitar. Michael Krayniak, bass & Paul Bivans, drums.
SLAM COMPETITION — NPS 2012 Preliminary Bout
Sign up and compete to be on the CSW NPS Team
$5 entry fee — $25 prize (only three contestants per night)
Poetry on Screen: The Day Carl Sandburg Died
Friday, Jan 6, 7:00PM
Saturday, Jan 7, 3:00PM
61 West Superior Street
Free reservations at http://poetryfoundation.eventbrite.com or by calling (312) 787-7070
The Poetry Foundation presents the Chicago premiere of Bonesteel Films’ feature-length documentary, The Day Carl Sandburg Died. Six years in production, the film presents the fascinating life of American icon Carl Sandburg. Through a remarkable cast of interviewees, rarely seen archival footage, and modern performances, The Day Carl Sandburg Died tells the panoramic story of Sandburg’s life, work, and legacy. The film touches on his contributions to poetry, history, journalism, music, and children’s literature while also delving into the complex social and political events that shaped him and his work. The Day Carl Sandburg Died will air on PBS’ American Masters late in 2012. Following each screening, Chicago poet and slam founder Marc Smith discusses the film—and the poet—with filmmaker Paul Bonesteel.
Here’s another great action suggested by Warren Buffet, one of the few noble rich billionaires in America willing speak up on behalf of the people of this country and the world.
Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.
This is one idea that really should be passed around.
_ *Congressional Reform Act of 2011*_
1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.
Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.
If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Don’t you think it’s time?
THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!
If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.
You are one of my 20+ – Please keep it going, and thanks.
In famed director Peter Brook’s book “The Empty Space” he describes four types of theater experience – Raw, Dead, (one I can’t remember), and Holy. “Dead” is what we mostly get. From dead Shakespeare to dead avant-garde Yesterday I witnessed “Holy” (and a little raw) at its best. Bluebeard at the Neo-Futurarium — a must see for anyone remotely connected to theater in Chicago.
Funny, outrageous, mystical, poignant, expertly crafted, brilliant writing, and dazzling acting.]]>
This has become an annoying question that I have to answer over and over in interviews.
How did the slam movement which has, by intention, embraced so many different styles, themes, people, forms, and cultures get pigeon holed as a synonym for rap?
Was it Def Jam Poetry and their Broadway show? Is it media folk like Jon Stewart who conduct silly debates over rappers “poetry slammin’” at the White House? Is it the goodhearted teachers who use the slam as a vehicle to interest kids in poetry but reward “main stream” rap over other poetic forms?
Here’s an answer to the question. I posted it to a high school student doing a paper on slam just a few minutes ago.
“There are at least two distinctions between rap and slam. 1) Rap evolved out of music, and it has been driven to international status by the commercial music industry. Slam started as, and remains, a grass roots community based movement that evolved out of the world of poetry. 2) Slam poetry is open to all forms of poetry, people. themes, cultures, and styles of performance from haiku to sonnets to Cowboy poetry. Rappers looking for a place to expanded their writing beyond musical lyrics entered into the slam world during the early/mid nineties. They are one part of a big family of poets who have found a home in slam.”
Rap, and the entertainment industry behind it, is certainly one of the most important worldwide lyrical art forms of our time. It has influenced millions. It has given voice to many. It has created oceans of celebrities and stars. I has made alot of people alot of money.
Slam by contrast is small potatoes in a big bag. It has created with little or no money communities of performers, poets, fans, organizers, activists, and educators across the globe who speak their truths on modest platforms for modest reward. It has created stages where grandpas and grandmas “spit” alongside teenagers and tots. Where Cowboys poets can rhyme away the night while LA divas rant on the street corners outside the club.
For all the brilliant people at the top of our society leading the world faithfully from one man-made catastrophe to another, the distinctions between the rap industry and the slam movement may serve as a good on-air joke. But for me (the guy who started it) and those folks who have served their slam communities with little thought of material gain, the distinction is clear and critical … hope it’s clear to you.]]>
Thankfully none of my slam visits (so far) have been marred by excessive screaming. As I’ve preached in the past to many slammers, young and old, volume is an element of performance that should be used judiciously and with restraint.
Screaming is not the equivalent of passion. Many audiences stop hearing and believing the words when the poet is screaming at levels inappropriate to the text. Why judges don’t chastise the screamers with minus tens and twenties is beyond me. Maybe they’re afraid that the screaming poets might follow them home and scream outside their windows all night.
Staged teardrops are another performance question mark. I’m not referring to those transcendent theatrical moments when actors or performers become so deeply committed to their roles or poems that they unwilling transport themselves back to a vulnerable space and time and present to their audiences an authentic dramatic experience and shared catharsis.
No the tears I’m questioning are the conjured up crocodile tears calculated to gain sympathy from judges and audiences with a maudlin mediocre text. How many convulses sobs are needed to score a perfect 10? Is the breakdown timed precisely to fall within the three minute limit? Are coaches and captains managing these emotional strategies to gain ultimate victory? Be sure to cry a little, you’ll gain an extra point or two.
When I teach performance I challenge students to become vulnerable by exploring and exposing remembrances and emotions they may have kept buried for years, decades, even a lifetime. Sometimes they are moved to tears when they do so. Tears they fight back trying to regain composure. Such emotional and psychological exploration has its basis in the Stanislavski and Mesmer methods, technique that leads to more authentic portrayals of a character or text.
I’ve been told that at some slam competitions large numbers of participants are sobbing out their words. That seems odd to me. In twenty-five years of hosting the show at the Green Mill I can think of no more than a couple dozen occasions (hardly ever more than one in a night) when poets have broke down into tears.
One night a woman well past her forties made all of us cry with a tale of her recently deceased son. Her mascara ran dark down her puffed cheeks. Her chest heaved. The next week her mascara ran again as she read a poem about her dying husband. On week three her uncle died, and after that I dubbed her the Grand Dame of Doom.
Turns out none of these personal tragedies were true. It wasn’t her son who died; it was a friend of a friend’s son. Her husband wasn’t on his deathbed, a neighbor’s was. And the uncle was a distant one she hadn’t seen since childhood.
Fakers in all categories of tragically confessional verbiage (often passed off as poetry) insult and diminish the tragedies of those who have truly suffered great misery and sorrow. I think that when we sense a con job we should muster up the courage to question it. And if there’s a bandwagon of sobbing slammers on stage dominating a night, I think maybe … maybe it might be a bandwagon filled with bullshit.]]>
9:30 AM TIL NOON AT THE CHOPIN THEATRE
1543 W. Division Chicago, IL 60642
To celebrate 25 years of slammin’ performance poetry Chicago Slam Works will be hosting the third in a series of Slam History Video Salons to record slam stories recounted by some of Chicago finest performance poets and organizers.
On Saturday morning May 21 Members of the Original CHICAOGO POETRY ENSEMBLE ROB VAN TUYLE, DAVID COOPER, ANNA BROWN, MIKE BARRET, & KAREN NYSTROM along with Members of the SPEAK’EASY ENSEMBLE will tell tales OF THE EARLY YEARS AND HOW IT IS NOW as the cameras roll.
You are invited to come by and listen to these historic interviews and enjoy a tasty Brunch courtesy of Ziggy & Lela at the Chopin Theatre downstairs.
A $12 donation for the food and fun is requested.
Chopin’s Brunch Concept
“Chopin’s Brunch” continues the great tradition of European salons presenting new artistic and intellectual ideas as well as being centers for social exchange. “Chopin’s Brunch” will take place in the salon-like setting of Chopin Theatre’s Lounge. The elegant buffet brunch will start around 930am. At some time during brunch, the conversation starts. This may be in the form of lecture, round table discussion, multi-media presentation, etc. Around noon the brunch concludes with a short presentation of Fryderk Chopin’s music.
April 14, 2011 12:04 PM
Subject: Enjoyed Meeting You
Again, I really had a great time at the slam Sunday night. I was only able to catch the last half the evening because of other commitments. I just wanted to let you know what I’ve been working on in my small town to get people more energized about poetry and how you were key to my own interest in poetry.
I read the book The Spoken Word Revolution when I was in college and loved it! I finally found poetry that I felt like I could connect to, that I wanted to savor. Being introduced to poetry that seemed alive shaped my direction as I continued into my graduate work in English. One of my professors had monthly slams in Laramie (where I was at school) and even challenged me to write a little too.
When I moved back to Nebraska (and small town Nebraska at that), I really missed the atmosphere. I refocused my Intro to Poetry class around poetic movements so that we could end with the spoken word movement and our class project – putting on a poetry slam. My students arrange the whole thing: location, featured artists, advertising, etc. It has taken a couple of years to get people really on board, but this year, I really think they nailed it! I felt like I was back in grad. school at our slams.
We have a new space being renovated with plans to incorporate a monthly poetry slam.
I can’t wait to get back to Chicago and be able to come back to the Green Mill Lounge. It was very revitalizing for me to be there, and it was great to finally meet you!
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Early this year I began visiting slams throughout the Midwest, and more recently on tour out to California. My intent was to check on the growth and stature of the American apparition of the movement I started 25 years ago. Along the way I jotted down impressions, thoughts, praises, and criticisms about what I was experiencing. One distressing element noted was that many slams don’t start on time. In fact, some lumbered to life hours after the advertised moment of first spit.
Is this a good practice?
Not by my judgment. One of the failures of poetry readings in the ‘70s and ‘80s (before Chicago’s Uptown Poetry Slam changed the staid course of poetry events) was that none of them started on time and consequently extended late into the nighttime early morning, usually on a week night when most working folks couldn’t afford staying up past midnight to listen to self-indulgent poets rambling.
One of my absolutes at Green Mill was to start on time or close to it.
There is a tradition in theater (which I believe had something to do with train schedules in New York City) that curtain goes up at 8:08 or something like that. A musical overture filling the wait-time space as the late arrivals are seated.
I may have this all wrong but the point is that over the decades (and maybe the centuries) stage presentations have started as close to the advertised start time as possible. Why should poetry shows be any different?
The dire consequence for starting late is that newcomers (who expect shows to start when the fliers say they will) wait … and wait … and wait … and wait some more, all the while grumbling in their minds, “What the fuck is wrong with these people, these poets. Let’s go! Let’s go! My time is valuable. Don’t these people give a damn about that?”
Expectations rise … and rise … and rise. And when the slam finally does start it’s burdened with the task of overcoming the huge volcano of resentment fuming in the newcomers’ heads.
And of course, the way out is no better. Delaying a show places the endgame far beyond what’s reasonable.
Three hours is considered a breaking point for any stage presentation — theatrical, poetical, or even musical. Sure some festivals rock on day and night deep into the wee hours, but think back on the concerts and plays you’ve attend. Two or three hours is the standard.
Advertising a show for 8pm, not starting until 9:30 and then trudging on until 2 am to finish – Egads! Six hours! How many people eagerly sign up for six hours of anything, let alone six hours of amateur poetry presentation. You’d have to be thoroughly stoned to survive it, which maybe the organizers of such fiascos are.
Newcomers hardly ever return after being burnt out by delay, and most likely spread the word, “I tried that poetry slam thing and oh man! It started so late and ended so late I couldn’t hang with it. It’s not something I’d recommend to anyone.”
Slam organizers owe it to themselves and to the slam community in general to start shows on time. It’s one of the principles that helped the original show in Chicago (and the successful shows that followed it) thrive and continue to thrive garnering new audiences every month, every year, swelling the population of slam enthusiasts to numbers envied by other fine art disciplines.
If you find numbers dwindling at your slam, maybe you should get back its roots and start on time.