Dain Brammage

The Spirit of Poetry Slam

Dain Brammage

So, Poetry Slams are basically a gimmick to get more people out to and involved in poetry events.  This is pretty much a fact, though I am sure it is contested, thus the pretty much.  One way this is achieved is by having judges picked from the audience.  Another is by stating to the judges in the pre-slam schpeel not to let the audience sway their scores and then turning around and telling the audience it is their job to sway judges.

I want to focus on the latter, the audience swaying the judges.  This is designed to encourage the audience to let their emotions out during the performance of the poem, as well as to get them to applaud obnoxiously at the end of a performance.  Basically, it is giving the audience permission to behave badly.    It takes the stuffiness out of the equation and brings it down to regular-folk level.  It encourages the construction worker to participate.  I think back to the movie Cocktail here Tom Cruise is a poet bartender who could quiet the crowd and then free-style this amazing poem while standing on his bar and then the bar erupts into cheers and applause.  He is a star, for just a few moments, but he is a star.

This is what we want, but Albany must be a polite society, because getting an audience to react at all can be a huge challenge in Albany.  Being the slammaster in this city I have nights where I feel like I have to act like Crazy Eddy from his commercials twenty/thirty years ago just to get some applause.  We have a few people who understand, and it may be unfortunate when Professer Nester reads this and applies his god-given gift of “How to Be Inappropriate” which is the title of his latest book. But this is what we want, a rowdy crowd out to have tons of fun at a literary event.

Albany, unbutton your top button, loosen up your tie, take off your bras and bring some energy to our next poetry slam on Tuesday, April 3rd at Valentines.  Sign up starts at 7:00pm and the show is suppose to start at 7:30 with an open mic.  Hey, I want this next show to be “INSANE”!

2 thoughts on “The Spirit of Poetry Slam”

  1. Just reading Adrienne Rich’s “What Is Found There” & came across this in a piece about a reading at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 1991:

    “And perhaps this is the hope: that poetry can keep its mechanical needs simple, its head clear of the fumes of how ‘success’ is concocted in the capitals of promotion, marketing, consumerism, and in particular of the competition — taught in the schools, abetted at home — that pushes the ‘star’ at the expense of the culture as a whole, that makes people want stardom rather than participation, association, exchange, and improvisation with others. Perhaps this is the hope: that poetry, by its nature, will never become leashed to profit, marketing, consumerism.”

Comments are closed.