Posts Tagged ‘seattle poetry slam’

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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I’ve been listening to whatever I could find of Roger Bonair-Agard’s work for some time, but this was my first chance to hear him in person.  It was encouraging to see  someone give such a well-crafted, deeply moving performance entirely on page.  I enjoyed so much of the feature that I could not write it down fast enough, but below are a few of the moments that I could capture.

Roger opened with a prophetic piece, advising powerful white people about the coming revolution.  It begins, “no one ever plans for blood but blood comes.”  It is a warning that people will not tolerate racism and war forever, and their movements are linked:”We’ve been memorizing the whistling of shell casing.”  “We love you. Lean in.  This could save your life.”

Much of the feature was a meditation on Blackness, pop culture, and social interaction.  About halfway through Roger’s set, a drunk spectator yelled “I want a love poem!”  And Roger responded perfectly, “All of these poems are love poems.”

For he finale, “For You Who Could Know Me Who Could Love What I Love,”  Roger uses pop culture references and common social ground to show that humans share so many things.  It is a call for connection: “Do not say you don’t know me when I have been walking your dreams all these years.”

I hadn’t stayed for the slam portion for a long time, but I’m really glad that I did that night.  Three of my favorite poems showed up.  Although I didn’t make it to the third round, I won, because I got to hear such gorgeous poetry.

Amber Flame made my history nerd heart happy with her Elvis poem, about how “Black music has never been allowed to be rock n roll for long. . . we are not allowed to own.  We are allowed to mark.”  Truth, and such a good poem.

Conor Anderson’s stunning analysis of entropy and death followed.  “The things we are made of do not know who we are. . . We do not deserve to live.  We just do. . . When I die, there will be nothing left of me. . . It is not possible to have the experience of not having experiences.  . .Your death will not hurt you. . . You will be a bit of foam shaped like a human face on a  wave after it crashes.”

Lastly, Rose McAleese’s poem about sampling gets to the heart of creativity: “Shakespeare can take a tragic Italian love story and write  his name at the bottom.  The best artists do not copy. They steal.”  This poem is absolution for the sin of unoriginality: an acknowledgment that none of us invented the world. Rose has a new book out, Strong. Female. Character.

As always, I took notes in a dark bar, so some of these quotes may turn out to be paraphrases.

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I didn’t stay for the slam, because it goes so late, and I have to wake up at 6:00 for work.  There were a few pieces worth noting, though.

Dane Kuttler’s eulogy for Maurice Sendak was a magic labyrinth, just as any poem about his work should be [full disclosure: Dane is my co-editor for the collection In the Biblical Sense: An Anthology of Ap0cryphal Poetry].  The poem begins, “Inside every human is an oak door with a brass knob. . . this is where the wild things are.”  The poem gives the feeling of being led by the hand through a thick forest in the winter, all bare branches.  We’re going somewhere, but it’s kept a mystery until we arrive.  This poem is rich with the identification of introverted writers, showing us how a closet could be a refuge, and in sickness, an apartment could be an island.  Dane’s performance of this piece was so raw and personal.  It exhibits her recent streak of dream intermixed with concrete experiences, and I so enjoyed it!

Also on the open mic, Sean Patrick Mulroy performed “Fair.” In it, he creates a sepia-toned picture of a carnival.  A jock, “the one whose sweat-ringed jersey burns a hole in your stomach” apologizes for past homophobic remarks and takes a boy on a date to the fair.  There, they act out an all-American date, complete with ferris wheel and jacket sharing.  I won’t spoil what happens at the end.  Of course the double entendre of “fair” is great, but I find the craft of this poem is the precision of the images Sean Patrick creates.  It sounds like a faded photograph or film of a fair from the 1950s.  I could smell the popcorn, feel the clouds of cotton candy.

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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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I am honored to be asked to showcase in this year’s Seattle Grand Slam!   It’s tomorrow, May 6, doors at 6:30 at Seattle Town Hall!  If you don’t have your tickets yet, you need to run get them!  I’ll share the stage with Daemond Arrindell, Marita Isabel, Roberto Ascalon, Ela Barton, Jack McCarthy, Greg Bee, Mary Lambert, Rose McAleese, and Maya Hersh, and HOLY FUCK National Slam Champion Ken Arkind! 

I’m going to perform my best poem so far, Lucifer to the Almighty. So, here it is:

Lucifer to the Almighty

Before Sunrise or Sunset or Season
I seduced you:
Darkness, I am Light
You are nickel and iron and space so distant
I can’t reach between your molecules
I am hydrogen fusing into helium, infinite energy
You could extinguish me with a thought but
I offer 1,001 senses
if you let me warm a corner of you
slow me where I burn too hot
let me map your galactic curves
I can’t fill all your emptiness
but let me linger in your hollows

On the first day
I bared my desires:
I long to create new worlds from our bodies
I’ll carve out my right eye to sun a system
of eight revolving teeth
whittle my shinbone into smaller spheres
to orbit my extracted molars
all twirling bloody wonder
My rays frenzy them as
your outstretched shadows offer rest

Millions of revolutions before this moment
I exclaimed:
Life, like us, emerges in our creation!
They squirm through saliva oceans
choosing to turn left or right

Six thousand revolutions before now
I begged you:
in the garden, I disobeyed
Creatures shaped like you crawled
from the bleeding shards of my mouth
I grew the fruit to plant voices within them.
I know you, Almighty
you are trembling that our children will become wiser than we are
Forgive me
Don’t cast me out

One hundred and twenty-seven revolutions ago
I accused you:
You have built millions of electric lightbringers
since I crossed the void to find you, Dust and Emptiness
Your modern angels are more beautiful than me now
My body gapes where I carved out our children
Please stop telling our young ones that I engineer their suffering
You don’t have to love me
You don’t have to take me back
but acknowledge our intertwined timelessness
Darkness, you run scared when I approach flickering meek in a candle flame
Almighty, muster the decency to greet me

I grieve to myself
for six thousand revolutions
I have listened for a faltering syllable
My remaining eye fixates for a welcoming twitch of your eyebrow
My elements are heavy with our separation
Soon, I will be lead and nickel and distance

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