John Survivor Blake

Nitty Gritty Slam #27, October 2

A packed house because St. Rose cancelled classes & the poetry professors sent their students to Valentines (wish they would do that on a Third Thursday sometime). There was a long list of open mic poets so I signed up for the shorter Slam list, which got more takers too.

Mojavi played host for the open mic & mercifully kept his stand-up comic routine under wraps so we could get through the night before he had to report for class tomorrow. First up was the only sitter for the night, John Kohl, who tried to get the audience to clap along with his Tom Waits impersonation. Nat Alegretti & Monica Mitsakas did a collaborative piece with alternating lines. Sadie “E.” Hickman read “LOL Do you Love Me.” Sarah Sherman used the basement to explain the hidden in her piece “Deep Down.”

Brett Petersen began with breakfast & images from childhood. Juliet Barney‘s notebook piece was filled with teenage angst. Jackie Kirkpatrick read what amounted to an autobiography & love poem, about what happened to her at 17. Lauren Darman, who had never read before, read a piece by Carl Sandburg. Jess Listen to My Words got us warmed up for “Cuddle Season.” Ashley gave us more teenage angst, this in rhyme. PV, or Poetyc Vyzonz, was his positive self with his “you are a miracle” anatomy lesson. Tasha read an endless list poem to her little sister, “I’m Sorry Is So Fucking Cliché.” Laura‘s piece (unititled?) was pleasantly dirty. & I missed Drew‘s poem, the last of the open mic, as I was in the men’s room (sorry).

An added feature for the night was a performance by traveling Slam poet, John Survivor Blake. Of course, one advantage of a Slam poet being a feature is that they are not bound by the 3-minute rule & can stretch out & go on & on. Blake took full advantage of this tonight. Most of his pieces fell more into the epic story-telling end of the oral tradition, but he was able to keep the audience engaged by the force of his style & his vivid images. His subject was himself, his addiction (his brother introduced him to heroin), visiting his mother in prison, his sister protecting him in the schoolyard, teaching in a youth detention center, hardknocks that were exotic & foreign to most, if not all, in the audience. He did read one haiku, & a brief, short real poem about a woman/anaconda. He has travelled the country performing his poetry (as well as performing in Slam championships) so I found it perplexing that he had not kept track of his time or knew by the pieces he’d done how long he had performed & had to ask “how many more?” like a first-timer on the stage.

Then on to Slam #27 with el presidente Thom Francis as the Slam Master. Mojavi was the sacrificial poet with a hot sex poem. It was a fat field of 9, with Avery starting off with a burn the books performance, followed by Kevin Peterson with his parking poem, then the always positive PV.

Alyssa Niman performed her 1st Slam with a real poem of love with actual metaphors, “I Am a Stripper” — naturally she didn’t do well. I followed with my “Slam Poem” & got a respectable 27.5. Rain Dan‘s poem “Stumble Upon” had him finding his forgotten poems. Jackie “K” did an anti-slam slam poem, while Alex Sherman-Cross (who did well in Slam #26) read a passionate, positive love poem. Daniella Watson had the sexiest accent of the night & did a metaphysical piece that ended on the right line but way too late & was penalized for going over time.

So when the dust settled the 4 left were me (!), PV, Kevin & Avery. My piece “27 Things to Do with an MFA” got a lot of (embarrassed) laughs but not enough points to make the final round, so it was Avery in 3rd place, Kevin (who ended up in second place) & the winner (positively) Poetyc Vyzonz. As they say in baseball, “one more for the record books.”

Nitty Gritty Slam is the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, 7:30PM, $5.00, or less with a student I.D.