Let me just say that I was really bored at Urbana’s finals. Two years ago, I was screamin’ like a teenager at a Micheal Jackson concert… in the ?80s… in Japan(!) *copyright, UPHA* In contrast, this year I was trying to listen but it was a bit hard when I knew most of the pieces and the ones I didn’t know were going 50/50 on the hit me phase. Halfway through, Jess decided she wanted to get a candy bar and I was ready to hike to Hershey, Pennsylvania at that point.
On the positive tip, uber-congrats to the McKibbens clan- RAC rocked it out and was a clear favorite of the judges throughout but George had to come back from a tepid score at the very end of the first round (meaning the judges weren’t sure what to make of his poetry) to emerge the Urbana Grand Slam Champ. Two years ago, George leaped in the air when the final four were called and he was able to make Team Urbana- it still stays one of my fondest memories in all of slam and remained as Urbana took the whole thing that year with George participating in three of their four finals night poems. Add Ms. Automatic, Celena Glenn; NYC newcomer but Nats Vet, Anis; and Taylor as coach & alternate and this is one team that already has handicappers worried.
The only thing that woulda been better would have been to see Dawn Saylor on the squad but the judges were not havin’ it even though her hushed tones were letting me get a nicer grasp of what she was sayin’ on stage versus the extra-bass thumping, Can ya hear me now?!, norm of slam.
Corporate judges? For the longest I have wanted to have some kind of judge that has some kind of artistic background to help put Slam in some kind of artistic context. The result at Urbana was some pretty even scoring that stayed in the mid 8s throughout which is where I think most of the real good poems we do actually live in.
“I want to see a 10!”
Well then give me a goddamn 10 poem! Something that is going to haunt me for a while or at the very least I can recite snippets of later to other folks.
“I heard the baddest poem the other night!”
What did the poet say?
“Not sure but that shit was dope!”
Ten… my ass.
Corporate judging may seem like a sell out to the concept of Slam but the five random judges has led (in my eyes) to a quest for the lowest common denominator versus the search for commonality.
“But won’t corporate judging help someone FIX the slam?”
Glad you asked… The concept of fixing the Slam came up recently in Matt’s blog and I asked MC if I could retort via blog and here it is…
One of the fun/pains of being a SlamMaster was picking the judges. Some nights, it was a breeze and others it was like pulling teeth. Especially when you know what you are looking for, which in my case was for people that appeared to be actually listening to the Open Mic. First off, if you know one of the slammers- you shouldn’t be a judge. And believe me, this works both ways.
1. The obvious bias that comes with knowing folks outside of their poetry
2. The fact that if you know the poet’s obra and they go back to the well, you will be scoring it on how it compares to the last performances versus the actual performance.
(You know I’ve seen her do that poem WAYYYY better)
Once you find five groups that are unattached and actually listening then you just try to get a bit of diversity in the mix and then you’re straight
You can throw all that out the window and pick people who will score like you want them to score and insure your peeps an easy victory
The flaw in this plan emerges when the judges start scoring in a way you didn’t anticipate. Maybe your least favorite slammer is on all pistons tonight and has moved the judges to new places. What are you gonna do? Stop the slam in the middle and remind them why you picked them?
Nah, you gonna stand there and take it and next time pick some more well behaved judges… Maybe a pep talk before, who know?
As you can see, it’s a lil hard to actually rig the slam because unless you actually tell them “these are the poets I want to be eliminated” then you are fucked.
Always interesting was the apparent die-hard feminist giving the women low scores or the pampered suburb kid throwing 10s to anthem of the hood and on and on.
On your other points Matt, yes the MC and DJ do hold some power over the aura of the night but you can only bump an 8.1 up so much. Ya know?
Picking judges and seeing how 5 random folks decide the fate of the fragile egos is gonna be one of the things that I will miss but seeing them give yahoo ass scores to good writing and reward the ranter and ravers is gonna be the thing I wont miss.