Slam Poetry: What I’ve learned by Slamming

For the last few months, a friend and I have been trying out Slam Poetry. We love watching/listening to Slam. We love to read and write poetry. So, the next logical thing was to do it!

As an introvert of the highest caliber, I dread speaking in front of people. And speaking poetry puts my nerves into the stratosphere. Add to that the fact that my friend and I are both very much NOT the average slammers. We’re well past the traditional high school/college age of the average slammer and quite a bit paler. That’s not to say great slammers aren’t either of these, but they are fewer and farther.

So what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s scary, but…:¬†Sure, you soil your boxers as an introvert and an outsider. But I’ve learned so much about myself and about slam and about poetry and did I mention about myself?
  2. The audience is heavenly: OK, terrible song reference there. The truth remains, though. Even if you screw up, the audience gets behind you. Case in point: The first time I did an incredibly soul-bearing slam, I forgot my lines part way through. FOR NEARLY A MINUTE. I stood up there staring at the audience. Things went quiet. Then people start to snap fingers, then root for me, then outright applause. Eventually I remembered the line and finished strong…ish. The response was amazing! My highest score to date! Granted¬† I was penalized for running over the 3 minutes. I’ve never felt better about failing in my life!
  3. It’s about the learning: Sure, I’ve learned about slam and I’ve written some new poetry as a result of all of this. But best part is, I’ve learned about myself. I learned that I CAN memorize entire poems (6 so far!). I also learned that fears aside, I’m capable of performance spoken word. And do it well enough that I’ve placed 1st a couple times and made the top 3 more than 2 other times. And the poems I’ve written have really made me dig deep into my soul and my unfinished past and unthwarted demons. I’ve become a better person all around.
  4. Community: The other performers and poets are so supportive, so brilliant, so poetic, so loving, caring, inviting, everything! They are not snooty or discriminating against anyone like you’d expect poets to be. Well, like I expect poets to be…says the poet.
  5. It’s not about winning: As one of the hosts of ABQ Slam says after every vote, “Fuck the score! Give it up for the poet!” And he means it. Everyone means it. There is no animosity for winners and winners are humble.

In all, I learned that Slam Poetry is about the poetry. It’s about the pain, the humor, the feels, the art, the beauty and the hideous, the hate and the love, the life and the death.

 

Facing Fears as a Writer with Poetry Slams

It’s probably true of most writers, we’re naturally introverted creatures who tend to take criticism to heart. But selling myself and my writing and taking constructive criticism is a necessary evil I’ve grown to tolerate.

However, I always loved Poetry Slams and always wanted to do one. Of course, doing a slam requires writing poetry and getting up in front of a crowd and performing said poem and following up said performance with a loud and boisterous vote on how good, or shitty, your poem was.

When I’m watching slams, I can’t help but think I want to do it. I get the bug. I get an itch that can’t be scratched. Then, I found a writer friend (Robin Reynolds – well known for her Ink and Alchemy project) that also wanted to attempt a Poetry Slam. So we made a pact. We would each do it the following month. Put up or shut up!

Fast forward 3 months.

We’ve competed in a half dozen Slams. Mixed success I must say. HOWEVER, we are up against people who have been slamming for YEARS. We even compete against the biggest names in New Mexico! Robin was even invited and competed in a Women’s slam.

Does it still scare the crap out of me to get up in front of drunk strangers and perform gut-wrenching poetry to be judged by the masses? HELL YES!

That said, I have to say, it’s made me a more confident writer, poet, and self-supporter. The audience is almost ALWAYS supportive. Only the judges have been jerks…but if you’ve been to slams, you know that’s part of being a judge.

Even when I forgot my line for nearly a minute. A full minute! I stood up there and stared at the room. Everything was silent (IN A BAR)! Then the cheers started happening. Then the clapping and the “You can do it!” I finished…eventually. Fist bumps and great score and cheering brought me back.

What I’ve learned: You really do just have to get yourself out there. Nobody will promote you except YOU! And, when you do promote yourself, honestly, and truthfully, others WILL support you! The love you feel in a Poetry Slam room is downright intoxicating.

So, if you want to come see me perform, check out my Events page and join me!