National Poetry Slam Report (Thur) part2

prelim nite 2- 7:00 pm at the subterranean (upstairs)

alaska vs the ozarks vs nyc|union square

so what does the 1 ranks mean? if you win your bout you get a 1 rank, second- a 2 rank, third- a 3 rank. the road to semi-finals is led by those that after two nights of bouts have a combined 2 rank (meaning you won both your prelim matches) one of the fears of going to the three team 21 bout formula was that there would be more than 16 (the number of teams that go into semi-finals) teams with a 2 rank. that fear went down south as a whole bunch of 1 ranks met up against each other in the second night of bouts. 13 did not have that problem, they faced a 2 and 3 in the second night.

lynne was nervous as hell before the match. nothing new for ms procope and its pretty easy to remedy. go the fuck outside! which we did (last year the same thing happened) after getting by some well wishers, we hit a clothes store for minute and the look through different fabrics and shoes was enough to get lynne’s mind off of the slam for a minute.

the sac was marcell murphy of texas who dropped a pretty nuyo-esque piece about a black kid in the projects during 9/11.

rog goes with the same rotation as the night before since 13 again drew the C slot. alaska started off with a pretty typical ‘i am’ poem that morphed into a ‘how do i win a slam’ piece that dissed a whole bunch of muthafuckas including taylor mali(!) considering that taylor would eat this dude up with a lovely merlot, the poem fell flat on my ears (25.9) russ from the ozarks came back with ‘mama said there’d be days like this’ a pretty cool piece that the judges weren’t vibe-ing with (24.5) and here comes marty! ‘call me beautiful’ won the judges over and 13 jumps to the lead again.

‘a word is a weapon’ but not in the ozarks hands as they get a 24.4 which puts them REALLY back when t’ai reveals she was ‘lured here under false pretenses’ by ‘english traders, portuguese conquistadors & senegalese kings’ she just gets more relaxed and stronger as the tournament goes on. her 26.8 zooms union square past the ozarks and alaska when christy hits a very loud fairy tale poem (and a 1 point time penalty) for a 23.7

things look well in hand until rog drops his two-week old south africa poem. kudos to rog for hitting nats with a really fresh, raw, new piece that has NOT been slam tested but he attempts to do it from memory and stumbles twice(!) and dashes any hope of indy glory with a 25.2. no worries, as alaska’s jeremy rachel’s “silent and eloquent” poem (25.2) and doug shields anti-love poem (23.4) can not capitalize on the opportunity to jump ahead.

our luck of storm poets doesnt change as ruben errrr jibreel sings through a love poem that the judges seem to dig (26.7)

though a low scoring bout, union square has a 3.7 lead on alaska as, again, the third place team falls to the dust

alaska’s corrina delgado reminds us (as we have been reminded often in slam) that the revolution will not be televised. side note– i approached ms delgado earlier to see if she might be acentos material but, alas, she is only a delgado by marriage despite her fordham road/webster ave accent. end side note. the judges havent gotten out much lately as they rewarded ms delagdo with a 28.5 (the high score of the night) i wouldnt be so rough but she did say it at least three times and it may have just been the nyc entourage but i know i heard a groan by the time she hit the trifecta

scott of the ozarks makes a run for it with his call to dance but the 26.3 is a nickel short and a dollar late.

rinse, lather, repeat– here comes lynne that only needs a 24.9 to seal the deal which leads to the most in.yo.mutha.lovin.fucka.face version of ‘flectere’ that i have ever done heard. much like ‘trent lott’ the night before, this is the poem i have heard more than a dozen times as it was part of ‘impossible home’ (the louderPLAY we did earlier in the year) and i heard it a dozen times in the course of two weeks in april. i know ‘bend… dont break’ or so i thought as lynne went {stuart scott espn voice: on} IN YOUR LIVING ROOM! {back to you, ob} with her entire performance repertoire. one part of the poem literally made me jump in my seat as i use every sports cliche i can think of and lynne leaves it all on stage. she shoulda got much more but the 27.0 was more than enough to practically insure 13 a semi-final appearance.

congrats all around and what to do for the rest of the evening? well, i decided to head to the filter and get an early seat for nuyo’s 10 pm bout. i believe the team was a bit slammed out as they headed for some eats and a bunch of the peeps accompanied them. maria kept me company as we found the filter (a more down homey version of starbucks) was jam packed for the miami vs boston/cantab vs boise bout. no place to sit as all the coaches and tables were all taken up. this would be the only bout that i didnt take good notes for as i was too busy plotting on getting a seat, hangin outside with the nuyo squad complete with pepe the bartender(!) , sneaking a cigarette and still trying to scheme a seat. success around round four as i spot an opening which, as miami is declared the winner, equals to a nice spot on a big coach which i save for any late stragglers.

real quick thoughts on the 8:00 pm bout– dianne from miami (ed’s old open mic partner) was pretty damn good otherwise i got no lasting impression from the bout other than the fact that the energy in the room was really high and there was suv-sized dudes by the front shouting 10 for miami’s urban rhetoric right in some judge’s face.

cristin and ed were the first to get a seat and it took fish and lenny forever to get into the spot as i had to call them to let them know that we had a seat for them (which we almost lost as the ultra strict bout manager wanted to give them to somebody else when maria saved the day with her quick thinking ‘people are sitting here, they just went to the bathroom’ whew!) shawn randall (oh, urbana also won their bout) had to sit on a lamp desk as rich completed the rather tight fitting couch that had an awesome view to the stage. this bout was starting to feel like madison square garden meets the octagon during wrestlemania on super bowl sunday… inTENSE!

prelim nite 2- 10:00 pm at filter

hollywood vs vancouver vs nyc|nuyorican

all these teams have a 1 rank and vancouver is coming off an oft mentioned match against san.fran/berkley the night before that had s/b’s 114.2 fall short to van’s 114.8! are you ready to rumble?!

chicago’s katherine zwick jerks the curtain as the sac and rocks the house with a piece about her mom. the judges give that a 27.8 and we are off and runnin’

hollywood starts with a group piece and send up a white poet who introduces himself as mr black and a black poet who introduces himself as mr white. what could have gone down the road of cliche and obvious turns out damn good as they both express what it means to live behind the color line and (what it made it good for me) how those perceptions can be changed. a 29.8 gives the other teams alot to shoot for.

as they did in nyc, the nuyo leads off with carlos gomez who drops an incredible version of ‘what are words worth’ definitely one of his stronger pieces and his voice was able to carry the conviction the piece requires. 29.7 says the nuyo is in the hunt.

here comes vancouver, famous for their group pieces, with their return salvo. barbara adler & shane back up c r avery, backing himself up with beat box. c r is always a strange one since his multiple talents can overshadow his poetry and leaves him vulnerable to just being judged on his showmanship which can be erratic. the judges drop a 28.8 which, for any other bout, would be great but in this bout leaves the canucks a full point behind. c r’s poem was strong exploring the different plights of persecuted black men.

round two starts with the nuyo and kanaya steps up with “young, gifted & black” kanaya flips the role of thug and declares himself, with all the loot, cars and land, the true thug by the end of the poem. this piece is just manipulative and condescending on a couple of levels for me especially with his jay-z inspired warning of jail rape (29.7).

barbara adler from vancouver goes in the completely opposite direction and her ‘brothers grimm’ poem about the (un)fairy tale that was and is the holocaust is just amazing. to begin, she had the fastest clearest delivery i have heard the whole night (big emphasis on clear as i heard EVERY word) and her imagery was stark and real without ever crossing the line of true sincerity. the 29.7 gives team van some hope in this race.

shihan comes in for the wood and drops a cute love poem. sincere, funny and excellently performed. shihan has that whole look & delivery, all adding to a 29.7 that keeps hollywood in front

vancouver brings a group piece headed by r c weslowski. van has the multi-voice down pat, that fo sure, as the poetry and back up vocals all mesh smoothly. the plea to ‘keep the love going’ gets a 29.1 which may be a bit high since r c didn’t have the right energy for the piece but the jusges know what theyre doin’, right?

hollywood counters with an incredibly well choreagraphed group piece that involves two members on stage and two off. the two on are our night’s news anchors as they (purposefully) badly lip synch the news the other are providing. funny as all hell, well performed and mocks the cookie cutter reports we receive every evening at 6 gets the nights first 30 (hell, thats the first 30 ive seen all nps)

jive poetic has a tough hill to climb but his AIDS cautionary tale lands another 30! here is where score creep drives me up a wall. jive’s piece is cool (though it begins misogynistic as hell and the pay off only works once, for me) but compared to barbara adler’s piece is a clear second but we all know how slam works and if barbara had been in this round she probably would got a 31

storm poet marc masilansky gets a 28.4 which is an awesome score (storm wise) but i am not even payin attention as i try to figure out these scores.

vancouver… 87.6/nuyo… 89.4/hollywood… 89.5

omari the wise o (fo real, y’all) sets it off for hollywood and his p.i.m.p. piece is really not that good but he nails the performance and thats enough for a 30 and a guaranteed first place for hollywood

the shane remains undaunted and responds with his classic (from at least 2000) “rise and shine” piece. old as it may be it still rocks and shane is hittin all cylinders for a, what else(?), 30!

julian finishes off the night with his nigga piece. its really an anti-nigga poem but the effect is lost a bit with the over use of the word but its all about the conviction and sincerity and julian has all that plus an incredible cadence and rhythm. a 30 means nuyo gets second but i give julian all his props for still bringing his best game to the table regardless of the out come.

lets see– we have vancouver with a 117.6, nuyo with a 119.4 and hollywood taking it witha 119.5. when you think that a perfect team slam score is 120 then you can figure out how crazy this night was. the teams were all amped, the crowd was frenzied and the judges were lost in the melee. energy wise this bout was one of the most intense i have EVER seen… anywhere.

but the nights not over as we still have the slammaster slam which i was not missing out. the subterranean was jam packed from the previous bout taking us almost 10 minutes to get in only to see a gaggle of slammasters waiting to sign up for the slam.

nick fox and bill macmillan, our hosts, announce that its going to be a random draw to get in as many slammasters as they can before the venue shuts down at 1am. not only am i hella tired but i also find that i have NO voice at this point. all the screaming at other bouts (plus a ton of smoking) has caught up to me but i am sure i can pull this bad boy out.

ray, seve, omar, ed, maria, fish, lenny and rich are all cheering me on. where is the team? not a clue. the line to get into the sub is still long enough to deter people. let’s just say it– it woulda been nice if they were there but i wasnt slammin for them so in the final equation it didnt matter except to fuel me to do really well so that i can have a good story to drop on em. mostly, i want to make a mark with the national crowd cuz the sad truth is you aint shit in these parts if you cant slam. a victory here will rise my stock to the point that i can drop some opinions on the sm listserve and get minimal slack for any unpopular viewpoints. its late as hell and i have no idea when, or if, i get to go on stage. what to do? hang with ed, seve, omar and roberto (from team seattle) and play hatah. we gig on everything and anything we’ve heard at nats. rich joins the fun and i’m feeling MUCH better until it starts getting REALLY late. ray is asleep, seve breaks out and fish & lenny are set to join him. i cant blame any of them, every time they call a name i just want it to be me so as to get this over with. we could be having fun somewhere else instead of being stuck here– and its ME saying this!

“next to the mic, and our last slammer of the evening… oscar bermeo of nyc|union square!” whew! just as fish and lenny were about to be out.

with little to no voice i give em ‘mercy on the battlefield’ the vocals is shit but the moves are there with a slight new twist to the poem enough to get me a 9.2/9.8/9.8 for a 29.8! yeah, score creep!

this puts me into a tie for second and since only the top two go at it in the last round, nick & bill decide that its a three way race. after some coin tossing and quick math its decided that i go first in the second round… back on stage with ‘ceviche’ which earns me my first ever hiss for the ‘remove excess clothing’ line (i believe it comes from chi-town’s own lucy anderton to which i say… “all right, the feminist HISS! i am a legit poet in chicago!”)

going first gets me a lower score than the other combatants (boo, score creep!) but its all good. after another tie breaker, boston’s micheal brown (excellent soft well paced verse) comes second to pittsburgh’s dj brewer (fast hip-hop driven delivery) and i get the third spot. mission accomplished, baby.

leaving the sub is like leaving a hollywood premeire as mad poets ask me where they can get ceviche… GOOD ceviche or start busting out their own seven step moves. all love, all good and just in time for tomorrow’s slammaster’s meeting at (what!?!) 10am. oh lord, i’m off to sleep. end a very long day.

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