Becoming well-versed in spoken verse

Wanna go to a poetry slam next Monday?

I said yes, as I wasn’t going to disappoint a friend, even if it meant (as I thought it might) having to suffer through self-absorbed poseurs with limited knowledge ranting about how fucked up the world is while having little in the way of honest answers or solutions. But because I’d never been to a poetry slam – or any other kind of reading – before, I was honestly intrigued.

When we arrived at [email protected] a little after 8 p.m. last night, only two or three people were in the audience, sitting patiently in front of a stage bearing two microphone stands. The host for the evening, David, didn’t bother using either mic as he circled the chairs and delivered a brief history of poetry slams (they apparently emerged as a response to the academic beats like Kerouac). He then warmed up those in attendance with a poem titled “Fuck a Poet,” which brought a smile to my face as it addressed all of the unspoken prejudices I harbored about spoken-word artists — self-styled tortured artists articulating their unfathomable ennui. As I listened, the thought crossed my mind, “Was this just irony designed to pander to close-minded first-timers?” No, I decided. David had admitted that spoken-word poets are, by the nature of what they do, egotistical. And so his words rang sincere as he knocked himself and his fellow artists down a few notches with an honest reality check.

And yet …

While the topics from the seven poets who took the stage over the course of two hours hit upon subjects I might have expected — the Iraq war, religious hypocrisy, former lovers — the quality of their work far exceeded my expectations. I could tell the performers had spent considerable time honing their prose, and I was left admiring this rather unassuming, brave and decidedly unpretentious group I never would have pegged as “artists” had I met them under different circumstances.

So to David, Brian, Patrick, Jimmy, Emma and Ozell (hope I spelled that right) — thank you for an enjoyable, intimate, mind-opening and artistically satisfying evening. While I'm not a poet, I felt I was among friends. Something tells me I'll be back next month.

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