Jacky K and Christian Phiffer

WordFest 2013, Day 3 — Nitty Gritty Slam #42

It was the WordFest edition of the regular Nitty Gritty Slam, a special Haiku slam, & perhaps one could also say the “Jackie Robinson Slam” (42 being his number). My kind of Slam — hard to make a Haiku last 3 minutes. But first the open mic, hosted by Christopher the Poet, as effervescent as the bubbles in his whiskey & coke, squeezing more & louder applause from the diverse audience.

First up was Avery, the title of whose poem (“Odontodacytlus Scyllarus”, i.e. the mantis shrimp) I never would have gotten if he hadn’t given me a (signed) copy of his poem later. I followed with the much less challenging “Living in Wilcox.” Brian Dorn dedicated his poem, “From My Poem to Yours,” to WordFest 2013 & National Poetry Month (we do like to point out that “In Albany, everyday is Poetry Month”).

Linda Miller was here for the first time & read a poem about baby-sitting her grandchildren, “Renewable Energy.” Christopher the Poet performed one of his crowd-pleasers, “Letter from Home to My Children.” Christian Phiffer came over from the Slam scene in Pittsfield & performed “new, untitled shit,” a lost love slam piece comparing himself to a tomato. Jess ListenToMyWords also read a break-up poem, then her poem about a shooting in her neighborhood, “Nameless Bullets.” There was so much heckling & teasing going on when Poetyc Visionz came to the stage (with a beer!) that I thought he would never begin the poem, but eventually he was able to get into it, “Disguised Opportunity.” Algorhythm (who strangely did not enter the Haiku slam) ended the open mic with “a true story” of sex & drugs.

Jackie K., & Christian

The Haiku Slam was run by il papa Thom Francis of AlbanyPoets.com along the lines of sports contests with paired poets alternating up to 3 Haikus in single-elimination rounds. While the rules didn’t state it, there was some heated discussion at the bar about what constitutes a “haiku,” with some academic purists defending the Japanese form (strict 5-7-5), while certain grey-haired rebels championed the “American Haiku”, citing Poets&Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms, edited by Ron Padgett.

The contestants were Avery, Christian, ILLiptical, me, P.V., James Williams, Jackie K., K.P., & Brian. The themes ranged from booze, to the Boston Marathon bombing, to sex, to sex & booze, to Buddhism, to (my naiveté) love & desire. But, after all, this was a Slam & the themes that triumphed were self-referential, humorous Haikus about writing Haikus for a Slam. I was able to make it into 2 rounds (!), to be eliminated by Christian who went on to defeat Jackie in a final Battle Royale.

It seems only fitting at this point to offer a final nod to this event with a modest attempt at still another Slam Haiku:

poets gather to
read Haiku, slam 42:
Jackie Robinson