Perhaps there is no better form of artistic expression than that of music to demonstrate the peculiar dynamics of the European aesthetic. The European mind responded to music in precisely the same way as it responded to every kind of phenomenon with which it was presented. Music was analyzed, dissected, “studied” and translated into the language of mathematics. It was written down, and then it could be “read” as one would read a mathematical equation. And true to the pattern of European development, the intellectuals who created this new music were successful in introducing it into the culture as a whole because the culture itself was predisposed to value such an approach. – Marimba Ani, “Yurugu”, pg. 210
Recently, it was submitted in passing that I don’t often show outward support for the leading actress of my love life, B. Sharise Moore, as she is known on the spoken word scene–on the poetry scene. For those that don’t know me, my mother birthed me with my arse gently placed on my backside and pepperly prepared for the kisses of them who believe I owe them what only she deserves and hasn’t even gotten since her relocation. But, since my Brie wiped the floor(I have always loved that saying) at last night’s slam competition, I figured I’d do what I always do: analyze Afkan cultural influences.
Graffiti DC for what I could gather from the host and hosting parties is a poetry slam event organized originally by Beny Blaq in Washington, DC. His efforts extended beyond him Self to include spoken word artists Rasheed, Pages, Ya Ya and Drew Law. As Benny so repetitiously announced throughout the evening, the event was sponsored by Fuze food and beverages — although, Mr. Blaq(I can only assume this monicker alludes to the brother’s crisp skin hue) was donning a Coors t-shirt…never you mind that, however. For those that do not know what a slam is, a poetry slam is a competitive poetry event. Although most polished hosts will pay tribute to the idea that poetry is subjective by having the crowd “boo” the judges and applaud the poet, there is typically a pot at stake. Thusly, five crowd participants are tasked with objectifying the subjective as the poetry performers shoot dice with their vulnerabilities verbalized in measured vibrations and voted from zero to thirty.
Granted, that last paragraph was fully loaded with Owl’s subtle yet not so much point of view on poetry slams as I’ve gotten to know them(as if the pieces leading quote couldn’t let on that I would be swaying the writing a tad bit). The event’s “sackgoat”, or the poet who performs a poem in order to allow the audience to see how the judging will occur was a poet named G. After his performance, the judges scattered in random places throughout the venue held up small whiteboards with numbers on them displaying their overall critique on the piece quantified(see what I did there?).
After his gauging performance was complete, the first contestant was ShellySaysSo. Now, I can always tell when Baltimore is in the building because Ra, Slangston Hughes and Rebecca aren’t too far away. I am always delighted to see them and the support they show their fellow poets is commendable. Shelly would deliver a piece discussing the double standards of male and female sexuality entitled,”I’m a Freak”. The topic was presented in a fresh manner: a first person female perspective explaining why she feels the need for a courting process when she enjoys sex possibly more than the men the poem narrates to. I was relieved that the piece didn’t present it Self as a scathing attack, but a practical and insightful handling of an oft disputed condition. Shelly would receive a 23 even for the piece.
As I have been told, the contestants are grouped in four person teams that compete against each other for the right to move to the final round of two spoken word artists. Shelly would be the first contestant in her group of four forming the first round. The second performer, Mike, would recite a romantic piece, using Shelly as a focal. I don’t mind the romantic pieces flowing from the mouths of Black males, I feel as though the audience wanted something more edgy or “deep”; let’s say, they want Dead Prez’s “Mind Sex” as opposed to, I don’t know, LL’s “I Need Love”. I could see the eye rolls and furled lips from the audience as Mike recited. He would leave the stage with Benny reading his scores “from most disrespectful to highest”. And no that is not a common statement for these affairs. He scored a 15.
IEmpress, did her thing, as usual. Politics aside, I was moved by her humility through out the night(that means she took it upon her Self to speak to me, and yes, many don’t pass a second glance over me, but the true and loyal followers of Asylum know just how acclimated Owl has become to that treatment). I was also enamored by the piece. She represented the righteously cynical(sure, you can always win o’l Owl over with justified cynicism) with a piece discussing her policy dealing with female friends and male suitors. She was given a 25.7 for the piece.
As you can by now tell, I’m sure, I have my own feelings about the poetry slams. I attended the poetry slam in Alexandria, Virginia hosted by the beautiful and eloquent, ShellyBell, and I also watched a youth poetry slam at the 5th and K Busboys and Poets hosted by the broke baller, Droopy. What I dislike is that my favorite pieces that don’t fall from the lips of Brie hardly ever win because of things like:
The Poet isn’t popular with that crowd.
The Poet isn’t discussing something that is heartfelt amongst that crowd.
The Poet isn’t groomed efficiently for public recitation.
The Poet doesn’t seem to be in agreement with aggressive female homosexuality.
I’ll stop with my list of poetry slam pet peeves for now, but the gist of my concerns is that, although Graffiti DC is extremely polished in its assessment of performance poetry, poetry slam audiences, and thus the judges surrounded by them, aren’t created equal. This isn’t a new argument. Talaam Acey, spoken word phenom, also dedicates a few paragraphs to the murky waters of poetry slams in an essay on “Gay” poetry in his book, “Excellent Exposure”.
In many ways, I believe, and I’ve expressed this elsewhere, I will always be the preferred outcast. I don’t partake of my words without due consideration. An outcast is one that has been cast out from a group. The out cast of a genus is typically that animal born first of a necessary mutation for natural selection to select accordingly. The casting out is actually a blessing, as it was when mutant white people where born of melanin secreting people. For that last thought, please consult Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, the notion isn’t mine alone. Poetry is supposed to be the expressed thoughts of the out casted. One of the first documented spoken poetry pieces of history is a Kemetian(ancient, ancient Egypt) that discusses a poor man soliciting a bureau of law proscribers and explaining class and the right by which even the poor have to proper Ma’at. But hey, these are only my thoughts…what other thoughts would you expect Owl to be able to best write about?
The second half of the competition began with a poem about a male’s perspective of having an aborted child. It was performed by a poet named Hoffa, and he used a technique of speaking about his daughter as if she had been here on earth and he missed her. An interesting piece, to say the least. He would walk away with a 27.1.
The second poet of the second round was the ever so devasting, the one and only, her muthafucking Asylum-ness…B. Sharise Moore(yes, niggaz, clap from your cubicle #shyt). Since my staff pays the bills around here, I don’t mind being biased. She took a rusty broken industrial sized, kitchen mixer leg sharpened from fear of being fucked in prison style shank and worked the crowd over. She did her personage piece of the meeting between Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye’s father that you can listen to here, and purchase on the album “”. She would drip blood from the microphone back to where I was standing with a 29.8 from the judges.
Yeah, of course, your favorite ex-convict slash ex-drug addict slash and plus ex-homeless writer felt all standing ovation for the queen inside but didn’t have to show it. I sort of understand now what inspired Jay-Z’s verse on “That’s My Bitch”.
But, hey, the story doesn’t stop there…
The last competitor of the round was a Jonie that spoke something towards her fearlessness for being in love with a woman. Automatic crowd pleaser. The only way to beat that was to be an Asian with southern swagger in an Afkan(Afrikan Amerikkkan) mounted venue discussing how hard it was to grow up Asian around Whites. She would walk off the chopping block with a 29 even.
The round was ended with a few more jokes for Beny The Dark, and a round of poems from Drew Law, Pages, YaYa, and Rasheed. Pages and Drew went head up with pieces discussing what they would do to the females of the audience sexually, then Pages broke off to do a piece about how he would wish to be a cigarette since that would get his father’s attention. Rasheed and Yaya would both do pieces together and separately. I was in deep combat with my part-time atheism and full time “Fuck Christianity” as Rasheed waxed poetically about the fear Jesus would have in actually coming back to earth. The section was wrapped up with Drew law.
The finalist, as you must have calculated already were B. Sharise Moore and Jonie. They would have to compete against one another without an edge from their previous score. B. Sharise Moore would perform her critique of the Education System in USA and Jonie would do a love piece. I slept with the winner who walked away with a clean 30(Highest score one can receive).
I could have left you there, but I will not. I totally appreciate the work and effort of all named artists and those that appeared that night. It is difficult to write about people that are loved by the person you love without being overly offensive, or dick riding to the point of nausea. No matter how much money is on the table and how many bills will get paid with said money…no matter how much sex will be received by poets by poetry appreciatists…the bottom line should be about expression, and to all those new to these digital parts, I pray ye understand my expression is necessary for me to sleep without fighting. Not a metaphor there.