“Like walking around with little wings on my shoes”

Friday at the Nuyo was some kinda experience. Celebrating who we are, “A crazy bunch of poetry fanatics seeking any acolytes we can find to help convert any other non-believers we encounter long the way,” by bringing Lovella, a poetry loca we met at NPS this year to the home that Pinero built.

Semi-Finals means that you need to give the Nuyo $12 fuckin’ dollars to get in the door. Lovella and Rich were by the front so at least I didn’t have to wait long to get in. Here is something for the “What the F?” file– this is the fourth time in less than a year that the feature has not made it to the venue in time. Acentos had this happen only once and even that was under some crazy circumstances that I was fully aware of and was a chance that I was willing to take. This has never happened at 13 or synonymUS, so why do performers dismiss the Nuyo like that?

Rich looked over at me in that, “It could be your night, son,” kinda way but with Vanessa Hidary and Jive Poetic already in the house– I knew that I was third choice, at best. Vanessa and Jive have proven themselves crowd favorites at the Nuyo and if I was going to have to make a last minute switch, I would go with the safest choice possible. Of course, that statement only matters if the crowd actually cares who the feature *is*.

As Jive gets the nod from Karen to grab the spotlight, I also see Karen grab Rich to the side so I give Rich that, “It could be your night, son,” look because (again, not for the first time) one of the scheduled slammers didn’t show… to a semi-final(?!) bout. Not sayin’… just sayin’.

Here is your line-up Rich Villar, Desiree Marshall, Lamb and the Marxman. When it all was said and done, it came down to a slam-off between Dez and Lamb. Lamb won the coin toss and went second. Both of them kept hyping the crowd with their words, as they had been the whole night and went the last score went up, it came down like this–

Dez– 29.8 and Lamb– 29.9

(Don Pardo voice: ON) A tenth of a point is all it takes. (Pardo: OFF) Dez is such a warm soul and her improvement from last year is phenomenal, I suspect that she will be on a National team by nest year. This is the first opportunity to hear Lamb go at it in full *slam* mode– his sincerity shows on stage and he fills the great white hope slot to a tee.

Rich got some great experience when it comes to having your back against the wall and your poetry is the only way to fight out. Semis are rough, losing a slam is rough, and losing to folks you like never makes it easier but it does make it easy to stand up and clap for them when the night is over.

So here is where the crisis of faith jumped back in– I am standing in the middle of the whole Slam phenomenon hearing everyone ‘Oooo’ and ‘Aaaah’ at all the right phrases and my mind says:

“What’s wrong with people just having a good time?

So what they don’t understand half of what they hear?

Isn’t it perfectly cool for them to leave feelin’ happy with themselves?”

Especially when this one girl practically leaps at someone yelling “down with Bush!”

The next day my conversation with an art teacher at Mind-Builders goes like this:

“Reggie, is it cool for art just to be art?”

‘Huh?’

“What I mean is– if the art moves the crowd then it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing, right?”

‘Nah brah, art is supposed to move forward not stay in place. If it was up to the audience, they would have vanilla for the rest of their life before they ever tried Cherry Garcia then they try Cherry Garcia and that’s all they want… till the next thing hits. The question is– Where’s the next thing coming from?’

One of the lucky turns my life has taken is working in this building with instructors that have played all over the world but still want to teach in the Bronx and give back. That’s dedication to the art and real interchange with the biggest audience you could possibly ever have.

After that lil’ talk it was full steam ahead as a couple of artistic questions made their way to the surface at Maria’s party and I have a choice:

Stay shut and stifle my own process as the only way I have ever learned anything is by questioning everything

OR

Jump in, diving head first, and work out my own thoughts through interchange with others.

It’s not always easy to see a four and a half star movie and comment on the obvoius plot hole, or to hear your favorite singer half-ass their way through a follow up album, or to see a dancer bore a crowd for 15 minutes and say ‘What the fuck where they thinking?’ when (despite what you think the poem says) I can’t dance a lick, it hurts to see someone thinking that are changing the world by regurgitating the Op-Ed section of the Post(!) on stage but I don’t think that my being a poet is what gives me the right to these judgments… I believe it’s my being an audience member that gives me EVERY right to question anything that fills a moment of my attention.

Author: Oscar Bermeo

Born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx, Oscar Bermeo is the author of the chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below, and To the Break of Dawn. He lives and works in Oakland, CA.

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