Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Shortage Of Angst Here

08252010 No Shortage Of Angst Here

Photo by Bruce V Bracken
It’s the calm before the storm. I capitulate between hope and despair. I’ve done nothing but give ground since this process began. But that’s how it is with hermit crabs who have nothing more than a borrowed shell to shelter them from uncontrollable elements bombarding their universe. I think in one fashion or another I've always ridden a motorcycle. I've always been a hermit crab without a shell. I've always lived on the precipice of stability like a chad hanging over the gaping maw of ruination.

I seem to remember something S said (after I first started dating her last February) about what she saw on my astrological chart. Normally, I heap New Ageism, Tarot cards, Psychic readings, Astrology and whatnot into the same bucket of crap. But there was something in S's explanation that rang true to how I have lived this life, which is why I listened. She said that I'd have to stand my ground in a relationship in order for me to move forward (to become a public artist). It dawned on me today that this relationship she could have been referring to may not have been a romantic one, but a family one. I thought for sure it was about her and thus, I dug my heels down deep into the ground regarding everything she wanted from me and eventually, I ran away. But now I'm thinking mayhaps its my father (who also shares the same sign that she possesses). Of course dad would say that now is not the time to stand on principal, but he has said that about me all my life (regarding most of the work or life choices I have made).

Well anyhow, I went to the slam last night and put my name in the bucket for the IWPS preliminary qualifying competition. I was one of nine chosen and went second. If winning is your goal, being chosen to go early in the round is a death knell, because of a phenomenon called score creep. I didn't impress these judges this time. I've only slammed about six times: three times this year and three times the year I moved here. I suspect it will take me about a year to really learn the job in this venue. And I'll need to see a typical slam poem splayed out on the page in order to reverse engineer the style. I generally purchase poetry in an audio format, but I do occasionally acquire a book or two. 

I invited Carla, one of my only Catholic writer friends to come. And I'm glad she did too. She's a fiction writer who frequents open mics at the Richard Hugo House. Her current specialty is penning short stories—that can be read in five minutes or less—based on something that strikes her fancy out of The Stranger. I’m hoping that she will return to this venue and learn how to compose short narrative poems. I could see her as a slam poet and advance quickly up the ranks. She could become a performer like Jack McCarthy is or was.

The feature Robin Park, was awesome. She learned her craft through Youth Speak and she really bit into the experience of that word driving her pen. I started tearing up during her performance and my guts did that spasmodic quivering jerking motion that occurs before a cry. I don’t do that very often. The last time I did was when I was at my folks at the top of July and bottom of August. I demonstrated to them through the documentary "Slamnation: The Sport of Spoken Word" what Slam is. It wasn’t Robin’s poetry per say, but the fact that I will (most likely) be separated from this magical place of like minded people. I never knew what community was until I came to Seattle and entered into the ranks of the poets here. I've discovered that through this medium of expression I can connect to a reality greater than myself. For me it is the Eucharist or what the Eucharist should fill in my life (if I were a proper Catholic). It is a worship experience. The word of God becomes incarnated or in-fleshed in expression of the tongue. Through my ears, I eat that word and it fills me with belonging; with a sensation that I am a part of this creation; that I am more than who I am. This stuff that we blather out (every week, or bimonthly, or monthly, or six weeks depending on the population basin of your slam location) to each other doesn’t matter to that cold world of economics that drives the western world. Poetry is meaningless to people who go home in a mad rush after work to watch television (I realized that the Acronym PBS really stands for Public Bull Shit).

Matt Gano (photo grabbed online)
It is said that a person can be a writer anywhere. This is not necessarily true. Yes, I could be a page poet in a POW cell or Himalayan cave. Most writers are (to a degree) loners by nature. Although, some are introverted-extroverts. I'm kind of this way. I recharge both alone and in the company of others. Page poets connect their word to the universe through the publication of their pages in zines, mags, and journals. Performance poets, on the other hand, are a different breed altogether. Yes, we are just as introverted, as our page poet siblings are and just as unfit for the world of work. The pinnacle difference is we are driven to shit out our angst onto an audience that is present in the same moment and place that we are. Here in this place one's proximity to their target listener is so close you can see their nose hairs, inhale their ass breath, and their shitty rosy-water farty smells. It is like being an infantry solider with a bayonet fixed to a single shot musket and you're charging over the trench to impale your enemy---who is actually a sibling from another set of parents---in the heart. Whereas, the distance between a page poet and their audience can be much further away. A page poet could be likened to that of a pilot who controls a drone bomber from a hundred-thousand-million parsecs away to drop bombs on interested aliens.

Don't get me wrong, I like page poetry. I like to read it out loud. I like to hear it read by the poet too. And I've purchased about a hundred dollars of poetry mp3 tracks thus far.

Spoken word performing is not just about the writing. It is about the presentation too. I’ve aspired to be a Spoken Word poet since I graduated from college and first heard an audio presentation of Kabir’s teachings performed by Robert Bly. I don’t think I’m that good of a performer now or not to the same level as Karen Finneyfrock, Tara Hardy, Buddy Wakefield, Joaquin Zihuatanejo, CR Avery, or Jack McCarthy are. The slammaster, Daemond Arrindell, I would love to hear him perform live sometime, but it looks like that will become difficult in the (near) future.

Tara Hardy
To be a spoken word poet you got to have an audience. Very few people who attend library or literary or mixed genre open mics perform their work. Most people read monochromatic with their noses rubbing the words off the pages.

I know all about performance anxiety, but I don't let a thing like a panic attack get in the way of a dramatic reading. A few times, my body has shook so violently that I could not read the words on the page. I discovered this year after Seattle Door & Window went under, that if I drink a couple pints of PBR, I can keep a lid over that panic beast.

In the United States there are nearly 100 slam venues distributed across 30 (or so) states (see official map at poetry slam, inc). Texas supports eight slams. Prior to this depression Oregon supported two: one in Portland and the other in Bend. Washington State only has one in Seattle, but there is young man I competed against last night who wants to start one in Olympia (maybe I should move there instead to help).

Catalyst of Olympia
Where I may be living in a month from now is a 163.2 mile round trip away from the nearest audience. Currently, my one-way commute to this audience is about eight blocks. Measured on the map, it is approximately 2000 feet from my front door. My new trek on foot will, according to google maps, take me 26 hours of continual walking one way. On a bicycle the route moves off I-5 and increase to 88.5 miles. Google maps say a person should be able to cover that distance in seven hours and fifty minutes. This is doable. The slam will let out at 11:30 twelve o’clock on Sunday evening and I’ll be able to make work by eight Monday morning. This would be similar to one of those nights that I drank too much at the slam and blacked out passed out behind a dumpster along the way.

Please lord let this cup pass me by. Grant me a livable job so that I can stay a while longer in Seattle.

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