Nitty Gritty Slam #35, January 15

Writing for the Slam (Alex Sherman-Cross)

Always funky, always raucous, not usually contentious, but now & then egos erupt. Our fill-in host for a while was el presidente, Thom Francis, who began with a poem written about another contentious poet, “Walk Away” (good advice).

Carolee Sherwood was back after a hiatus for school & other things, with the provocative “Fuck the End of the World” (Winter is cumming). I followed with the a old poem “Nukes for Piece” (with Mary Panza commentary from the peanut gallery), then the much newer, more formal, “What Happens to Rock.” Andrew was up & out before I could get a good shot with an untitled piece running through the days of his week.  Rain Dan‘s first poem titled “Mr. Festnacht” was the personal ad for the character cleaning out his car, followed by an untitled piece thinking about moths around a campfire. The aforementioned Mary Panza (“still one of the sexiest poets on the scene”) also did an older piece, the “thank you poem” “This is Not an Angry Poem.”

Poetyc Vyzonz tried to follow Mary with Kevin Peterson posing on stage as the object of creation (you had to be there), then extended the positivity with part 2 of “Upside Down Inside Out.” Thom Francis returned with the tender poem to his dog, “At this Moment.”

Julie Lomoe was just back from being in the audience at the Katie Couric show & read a poem about soap opera vampires, “Jonah’s Poem.” Brian, who noted he had read here in September 2010, read tonight from a small notebook, first a poem written in December, then the rant “Microsoft Word is a Mother-Fucking Person.” Algorhythm recited 2 love/break-up poems that could have been the same poem, in the same style, rhythm, sound patterns. Avery (claiming to be the “back-up hat guy,” aping Zach’s style), demonstrated, with verbal sound effects what is is like “Driving My New Jetta.”

At this point the scheduled host of the open mic, Mojavi, showed up to take over from the Boss, to introduce JessListenToMyWords read (with apologies) an untitled anti-love poem. She was followed by Elizag with a tender poem about about a nursing home patient, repeating the line “she doesn’t remember.” The poet with the over-blown handle, “Truth,” read his poem “The Placebo Effect,” true or not. I was disappointed that Kevin Peterson didn’t read one of his own poems, instead the overly-clever “Sick” by Shel Silverstein, that darling of grade-school teachers who don’t know anything about poetry. The real Hat Guy (Zach) was up next with a thank you to the Slam at Valentines, “The World is a Strange Place.”

Tonight’s out-of-town featured poet (like something we really needed with such a diverse, extended open mic & the Slam yet to come) was performer McPherson, who began with a recorded back-up for his piece built around the childhood rhyme, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream.”  Then he went from “Goku” (on line-fighting) to a wide-ranging cosmic/Jesus rap, making me wonder about the relationship between these 2 characters. After an audience quizz about our favorite hip-hop song, McPherson turned it into a “classical English” poem, then ended it with a free-form that resonated with some of the bar flies who had been falling asleep. McPherson actually had a chapbook for sale but given the nature of his work it it seemed rather unnecessary & retro.

Since this was a women-only Slam competing for slots on women’s slam team, there were different rules: no elimination, & 4 rounds of varying time-limits, but only 3 contestants, guaranteeing that each went home with some extra cash. Alex Sherman-Cross had been writing her poems at the bar. Her poems ranged from driving & crashing her car, to being turned on by words, to movie star love advice, even a good political piece about discovering she can have/does have an opinion.

Jess ListenToMyWords, of course, included a sex poem, & one on the nature of beauty, as well her piece on hearing gun shots in her neighborhood, & a poem from her nursing experience, “Dead on Arrival.”

Kristen was here in the Slam for the first time, with a variety of personal poems: on a miscarriage, Daddy-relationship, even a dreamy-eyes love poem — & came in at 9.3 seconds in the 1 minute round. There was little of the Slam posturing, with all 3 poets doing mostly real poems, & when the scores were tallied it was Alex as #1, new-comer Kristen an amazing #2, with Jess in the #3 slot.

If tonight was any indication, the open mic was much more popular than the Slam, re-affirming why Albany’s poetry scene has persisted for so long — the power of the open mic — no competition, no judgment, no #1 versus #8, just poets doing poetry, good or bad. Unfortunately, there was also a clash of egos by a couple of poets who perform Slam regularly, at one point sadly (& ironically) threatening to break out into violence, another off-shoot of the “I’m #1 & you’re not!” attitude bred in the Slam environment.

The Nitty Gritty Slam is held at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, the 1st & 3rd (& if there is a 5th) Tuesday of each month, 7:30PM, $5.00, can’t guarantee that a fight will break out, but I hear they’re working on a hockey game.