Slam Bam thank you ma'am.
While reading Karen's blog about Slam Poetry, I was reminded of my first encounter with Slam Poetry.
As an undergraduate I found out about a "Poetry Slam" that was being held at a local bar. I had never heard of a slam before and the flier that I read said "Come read your poetry for a chance to win $$$" It was immediately settled. I had never read my work to anyone other than my classmates in workshop courses, so I couldn't wait to hit the stage and shmooze with other writers who loved poetry as much as I did. I was perfectly content with the idea of meeting other young poets in such a laid back atmosphere. I couldn't wait to discuss the new Molly Bendall book that I had just read with another woman poet.
I put on my prettiest dress, wore heels, curled my hair, printed a copy of the poem that I wanted to read and hit the door. As soon as I walked in, I knew something was wrong. I knew it was in a bar, but I expected the crowd to be much different. No one was in a dress. No one was in yellow, or pink, or purple, or blue. I saw a couple guys in white t-shirts and everyone else was in black. My baby blue dress started to feel like a flashlight in the dark room. Everyone watched as I put my two dollars in the donation jar and walked into the other room.
I still convinced myself that things would start to change as time passed. After the first girl screamed at the top of her lungs and the second girl hopped from one end of the stage to the other, neither with paper in their hands, I contemplated leaving. But I couldn't. I stuck around. The next person, a young boy, took the stage (with no paper) and almost rapped a poem that lasted twenty minutes. I thought for sure he was making it up on the spot - but I heard a girl behind me whisper "I've heard him do this one before, it never gets old. He'll win for sure." Person after person performed... person after person received 8s, 9s and 10s from the judges.
And then it was my turn... I timidly walked up the stairs and stood at the microphone. I unfolded my paper and tried with all my might to read my short poem about water with as much emotion as possible. No one clapped. No one screamed. No one cheered or chanted. The judges raised their 5s and 4s and I quietly walked down the stairs.
And, although I was embarrassed for not doing my research about "Slams." I was happy to have read my work. And, I was happy to learn about this "other world" of poetry.
Needless to say, I didn't win. And whisper girl was right, the twenty minute poem guy walked out with 54 dollars or something like that.
I haven't been to a slam since, but I would like to go again sometime, but only as a spectator.