Sep. 1st, 2009

poetry slam

Sep. 1st, 2009 02:34 am
Tonight I went to the poetry slam and read a poem, which is the first time I've actually competed in a non-haiku, non-instant slam. I continued my second-to-last-place streak, I think. I didn't read particularly well and as usual I had to pause occasionally because my shaking hands made it difficult to see the page. The poem was years old but only recently finished, which is true of most of my poems these days. It has a terrible cheesy slam-esque bit in the middle but otherwise I like it.

I suppose I should be over my ambivalence about 'slam' as a poetry format but it is not so, and from slam to slam I am more or less riled. I think the average score this evening was something like 9.4 out of 10 -- reading a short poem half-audibly off the page I managed to push a few judges down into the 8s. This is not useful feedback for anyone, certainly not poets, though it's not like numbers are ever useful feedback anyways. There were also some very inspiring readings of very mediocre poems -- one of whom poets ended up winning the evening. Part of the traditional MC duties is to instruct the audience to "applaud the poet, not the scores" but in my head I usually hear this as "applaud the poet, not the poem" -- because that's usually what I want to do. Everyone who reads deserves praise (and more importantly, attention) but less so every poem.

And it is strange that I feel like it would be better to separate the artist from the art, since that is not something I think of myself as believing possible -- but apparently I still want it, at least when the art is poor. I want to cut the poem free from the person -- and how thin would that knife have to be? -- so I can give each its due. But why? Only because the format demands it, or is it because I still in my heart am holding out for Beauty & Expression & other Foolish Things? Or is it just because I want to be able to light the poems on fire without singeing the person?

And why, really, should I care so much that there are bad poems in the world.



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