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Posts Tagged ‘Oscar McNary’

Berkeley slammaster Betsy Gomez and me

Berkeley slammaster Betsy Gomez and me

Coming from Seattle, where we take ourselves very seriously, the Berkeley slam was a fresh take on the playfulness of the slam.  Sevan Boult hosted, and reminded everyone to turn off our “asshole alarms,” because if our phones went off, everyone would know we were assholes.  The word of the day was homunculus, and throughout the night, poets substituted the word in their poems.  In the second round, when the audience response was waning, Sevan punished the audience by reading us Suzanne Somers’ poetry.  The spirit of the Berkeley slam reminds me that the slam is a gimmick to get people to listen to poetry, and it’s supposed to be fun!

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Teaching Kevin Holmes to dance, getting photobombed

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me and Janae Million

A Solo cup in every hand, the audience was hyped at the Smashing Slam at a house in Santa Cruz.  The back porch was the stage, with the audience cloaked in real or beer jackets to keep warm in the yard. I opened with my loudest poem, and the chatter cleared, giving way to rapt attention.  After Casey and I performed, a  two round slam with fifteen competitors lasted until well after midnight.  After all that, I expected everyone to disperse, but much of the audience stuck around, trading poems, and listening.  This was the show where I noticed a marked change in performance.  The challenge of the loud crowd forced me to bring the energy up to where they were.

I owe this great experience to Janae Million, the organizer for the show.  I met Janae when she traveled through Seattle, and happened to be staying at my house on a night of a poetry performance.  I mentioned offhandedly that I didn’t have a show booked for Santa Cruz yet, and so Janae set up an entire slam, with opening band Copacetic, to bring us to town.  The audience had an unparalleled amount of energy, and so many people talked to us after the show.  Many thanks for the kindness and time and energy Janae and her housemates put into setting this up.

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me and Casey with the show organizers

Poetry Center San Jose and San Jose State Poets and Writers Coalition graciously hosted Casey and me for our fourth stop on our tour.  Our show was originally planned for the Spartan Memorial Chapel on the San Jose State University campus, but on the night of the performance, the organizers saw that it was sort of an out-of-the-way place, and asked a small coffee house, Philz Coffee if they could host us instead.  They not only agreed; they set up a stage and a full PA system.  The organizers’ resourcefulness in finding another performance space improved the impact of our work.  The excess unoccupied space in the chapel probably would have distracted the audience, but the cozy cafe packed everyone in pretty close.

Most of the cafe’s patrons had not intended to hear a poetry reading that evening, but they were appreciative anyhow.  The San Jose crowd showed us so much love, in coming up to talk to us and in buying our merch.  We weren’t even the only performance poetry show in San Jose that evening.  David Perez also had his Oversocial Mofo Revue that evening, of which we caught the end.  San Jose has enough interest in poetry that it can muster substantial audiences for two shows at once.  I will definitely go back.

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Casey Tonnelly at LionLike Mindstate

Machine Pomona, the art and community space that houses the poetry night LionLike MindState, is situated in Pomona’s arts colony.  Pomona is about forty minutes east of L.A.  Judah 1 Poet is the main organizer for the space.  He showed me around the neighborhood, and on our walk, there was hardly a person he didn’t know.  Machine Pomona serves as a gallery and a shop for various local crafts.  Additionally, there was a traditional capoeira  music class right before the show, and the band played during the poetry show.  

Although there were fewer than ten people in the audience, the reception was warm.  From this venue and the surrounding community, I learned the utility of building connections among different art forms, from textiles to poetry.  My favorite moment was when Judah began performing the LionLike MindState theme poem, and people from the crowd joined in.  

 

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Me and Shihan Van Clief

On Tuesday, November 6, Casey Tonnelly and I featured at L.A.’s nearly fifteen-year-old poetry Series, Da Poetry Lounge.

The host Shihan van Clief engaged the audience in a brilliant way that I’d never seen before.  He opened by asking if anyone had seen any movies, and asking audience members to argue with each other about whether a movie was good.  Throughout the show, he talked about the election that day, and even played Mitt Romney’s concession speech on a projector.  The second host, Natalie Patterson,  drew the audience into a conversation about dating protocol. This venue is packed out with 200+ audience members every week because the producers of Da Poetry Lounge relate poetry to everyday life.

I don’t think this is a small triumph: many poets struggle with accessibility.  How do we write interesting, challenging work, and stay relevant to the general population? From Shihan’s inclusive hosting style to the poem on the open mic addressing Kreayshawn to some gorgeous a capella  hip hop pieces, Da Poetry Lounge holds space for people with many different interests to enjoy and create poetry.  I am glad that I had a chance to feature at this venue, and I hope to visit again when I tour the West Coast again.

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This November, I’m teaming up with Casey Tonnelly for our Illustrious Fall Tour of the West Coast!  Our writing styles offset each other perfectly.  I guide listeners into the underworld of the collective unconsious, and Casey makes the sun shine bright with their always funny story poems.  We’re still looking for shows in Oregon and Northern California for Nov. 3-5, 11, 13, and 17.  Contact us at oscar.mcnary@gmail.com.

Here are our dates so far.  Come on out for a great show!

Tuesday, November 6 – Los Angeles – Da Poetry Lounge at Greenway Court Theater, 544 N Fairfax Ave 9 p.m., $5, all ages

Wednesday, November 7 – Pomona – LionLike MindState at Machine Pomona, 273 S Park Ave
Thursday, November 8 Oceanside, CA Glassless Minds, 6:30, Twilight Stage, 219 North Coast Ocean Highway

Friday, November 9 – San Jose State University, Memorial Chapel, 7 p.m., free, all ages

Saturday, November 10 – Santa Cruz, The Sage House, time TBD

Monday, November 12-  7:30 p.m., Sacramento Poetry Center 1719 25th Street, all ages

Wednesday, November 14 – The Berkeley Poetry Slam – The Starry Plough Pub, 3101 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley 8:30, all ages, $7

Thursday, November 15 – Chico Slam, Chico Peace and Justice Center, 526 Broadway Street, Chico, CA, 7:30, all ages

Friday, November 16 – Eugene, University of Oregon, Erb Memorial Union,  1228 University of Oregon
Ben Linder Room, 4 p.m. free, all ages

Saturday, November 17 – Portland, OR – In Other Words Community Center,  14 Northeast Killingsworth Street, workshop at 6 p.m., performance at 7 p.m., suggested donation: $5, no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

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