Nitty Gritty Slam #38 – The Women of Albany Poetry Slam, February 19

Jessie & Alex get ready

How could I not be there? All women poets in the Slam! But first an open mic (the only way I could read my poems tonight) hosted by Mojavi.

Brian Dorn was here for the 1st time testing the waters, starting off with a love poem about a smile, then on to one I like, “From My Poems to Yours.” I followed with the poem I had meant to do last night in Pittsfield when I had a chapbook malfunction, “Where Were the Professors?.” Alyssa Niman packed the house with her family for her later appearance in the Slam, her open mic poem was “My Mother in Numbers.”

Rachel Bolton read a list poem (based on personal experience?) “The Advantages of Being Short.” The first of a string of virgins — oh, yes! — was Emily Willwerth with a pastiche “Howl to the Uneducated.” Virgin #2, Jessie Seafillippi read “Shadow Girl.” Virgin #3 Carrie Livingston used the hoody she was wearing as part of her performance of “The Awakening,” a narrative of walking the dog & lost love/lust. Kevin Peterson (definitely not a poetry virgin) did a piece by Ani DiFranco. He was followed by Virgin #4, Rose Marie Andrew, who read her poem “I’m so Mad” (at herself for doubting herself) from her smart-phone. Mojavi performed his unsettling sociological study, “On my Block.” The poet known as Hat Guy read what he described as “a structured rant at stupid bitches at school.”

The rapt audience

For reasons that have never been explained to me there are different rules for the women-only slam (sort of like making them play softball rather than baseball):  there are 4 rounds with different time limits: 4 minutes, 1 minute, 2 minutes & 3 minutes. The poets were Alex, Alyssa, Kristen & Tasha. It was a mix of performances from memory, reading from notebooks, paper, & smart-phones. Even some real poems & a minimum of slam clichés.

Alex has been coming out to the Slams for a while, honing her skills, even working on her poems at the bar. I’ve heard her first poem “Opinions” performed before & like it, but tonight I think she was over-performing, trying to put too much emotion in her voice rather than letting the power of the words speak for themself. But most of her work contains the elements of effective poetry, images, good use of language without being in-your-face. Alyssa is an effective performer with Slam-influenced pieces focused on herself. She performed a fine piece about body image, “Cartography,” during the 1-minute round but unfortunately went over time.

Thom Francis with Alyssa, Tasha, Kristen & Alex

Kristen‘s work was of the 4 poets the least slam-influenced, reading her poems from her notebook. She reads well & her poems have a strong emotional impact, especially one about making love to a lion, & another about the loss of a pregnancy. Tasha had the most Slam style to her work, even when read from her smart-phone, & as a result was afflicted with the common Slam ailment of her poems sounding pretty much the same. But I will say her piece about killing ants was what I would call “a real poem.”

So when all was said & performed, when the timing was stopped & the scores tabulated, the stage wiped of it’s sweat & tears, the winner was Tasha, Alyssa 2nd, Kristen 3rd & Alex 4th. Always good to hear the ladies, I have been heard to say.

Nitty Gritty Slam takes place on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays (& on the rare 5th Tuesday) at Valentines on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, NY — open mic at 7:30, followed by the Slam — $5, or $3 with student I.D.  More information at