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Archive for July, 2012

At a house party on Capitol Hill, a chain mail shirt was hanging between two horns on the wall.  More than fifty cute guys shuffled through the kitchen out to the deck.  Delicious local brew and sangria flowed from taps in the living room.  When I arrived, the door guy gave me a  badge, like ones I’ve worn for Dragon Con or NPS.  This was no amateur party.

Since the first time I heard Morris, I’ve loved his bizarre images and the visceral sense his work makes.  Morris’s performance was as engaging as ever. He appeared to be possessed by each poem, channeling its full intensity.  Morris travels from silly to existential in the space of a few minutes. Here are some of my favorite moments: from his poem “Narcissus,” “You can’t slice open a zebra, expecting to find sparklers.”  From “Recession,” “I had my wings clipped so I could get at job at a nice factory,” pretty much sums up the sacrifices and compromises we make in order to get by.  From “Undertow,” “The moon contemplates the man.  I ride the bus to the bus.”  My favorite performance of the night was “Incomplete Outline of the Thirteen Steps to Becoming,” a bit during which he appeared shaken up, correcting himself as part of the poem.  From that, “The first step is to accept that you might be crazy.  The second step is to realize you’re not crazy.”  How gorgeous and affirming!  His final piece of the night reached new heights of surrealism:  “You will find a box the size of the sky,” “You will swallow the banyon tree and spit toothpicks into the sea,” and “humming like an egg begging to crack.”

Morris was accompanied by a guitarist and a cellist during his set.  My favorite accompaniment piece was “Rude Mechanicals,” which featured a lot of noise and screeches on the cello and guitar, to set the mood of a dystopic future.  I often find that unconventional instrumental work can really bring out the mood of a poem.

Morris’s book Zebra Feathers is forthcoming from Minor Arcana Press on December 1.  I am already excited to read this book.  Minor Arcana Press is a new, Seattle-based imprint of Squall Publishing, and its first book, Evan Peterson’s Skin Job, will be released in September.

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Last night, the Seattle Poetry Slam was a true delight!

Some highlights:

Sara Brickman read a piece in the open mic about the difficulties of defensiveness and expectations in relationships.  She uses a gorgeous, evocative image of one partner bicycling on a tightrope, pulling the other, swinging on a ladder below, all above the teeth of a voracious tiger.  The tension in this piece is so well crafted.  It’s a true treat to hear her new work.

Denise Jolly shared some great new work.  I noted these quotations in the dark, so I apologize if they turn into paraphrase.  Some of her words that I could not get over:  from a poem about heartbreak, “a fishbowl of breath and an elephant of memory.”  “Be more heart than coal mine, but remember you are a coal mine.”   And from her classic piece about her group of friends growing up, “yellow smoke tail wagging between our fingers.”

Matt Blesse read three poems for a spotlight section  of the show, and his first poem, about being adopted was truly touching.  From that, “love was a kite string spooling out from his tiny heart.”  It’s rare that we have spotlight poets in addition to the feature, and it’s not advertised in advanced.  What a nice surprise introduction!

Barton Jackson was brilliant in the form slam.  He started with a pantoum, “Terror Introduces Itself,” written that night, if i’m not mistaken.  From that poem, “a veil of pins and needles.”  Nice.  For his second piece, he performed a sestina.  My favorite line: “sewing bones to make memories in our hands.”  We sure will miss him and his gorgeous poetry when he moves away in September.

I performed “The Gyroscopic Effect,” a pantoum about learning to trust after being hurt.  My second poem was a haiku about gratitude for small blessings, like standing after getting hit by a car.

Until yesterday, I had been absent from the slam for about a month (boy’s gotta sleep), so I had missed a lot of these poets’ voices.  What a great night to get back into it!

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What a fun show!  I only got through one poem near the beginning of the show, so I got to enjoy much of what followed, without worrying about what my next poem would be.

Some highlights: Eirean Bradley’s poem addressed to a new love, after having been divorced was so insightful and powerful.  I finally got to hear Stephen Meads’s Mario poem in person!  Cheryl Maddalena’s “Two Part Poem” never fails to trigger riotous laughter at the hook, “Put it back in! Take it back out!”  Robert Lashley is a master of received forms.  His poem about getting caught making out at church camp and the following enforced separation never fails to move me.  Mary Lambert won the match.  Congratulations, Mary!

A note on the form: the Portland Poetry Slam is all head-to-head, all judged by applause, and this slam was judged in the same way.  I think this form allows a sense of history, for relationships to be built between poets and the audience, since everyone has a vote.  The scoring style of judging allows poets to be judged solely on their performances that evening

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This Saturday, July 7, I will be competing with fifteen of the Northwest’s best poets in the Northwest Individual poetry slam deathmatch.  The event will be at 7:30 p.m. in Slabtown Bar, 1033 NW 16th St. in Portland, Oregon. $5, 21+.

If you live near Portland, come see me plus Amy Everhart, Robert Lashley, Mary Lambert, Jillian Christmas, Greg B.,  Stephen Meads, Sam Sax , Robyn Bateman, Erich Haygun,  Mike McGee, Garrett Sherwood, Jesse Parent, Meg Waldron, and  Nazelah Jefferies.  Damn, that’s going to be a good show!

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