Thursday, July 10, 2008

Big Sur fire cancels slam, but not the poetic spirit

There will be no West Coast Championship Poetry Slam in Big Sur this weekend.
A bit of a bummer, but as the Basin Complex fires threaten Zen monastery's and send wild bears running toward the coast, the cancellation ranks toward the bottom of the fire casualty list.
Still, it's a downer because this weekend, a small crop of poets from up and down the left side of the U.S. map were scheduled to perform at Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. I was among them.
It's a bummer that the Team Monterey will not make a go at the West Coast title. The team consisted of myself and local poets Jacob Tsypkin, Chloe Noonan, Dr. Ibrahim Mussa, Richard R. Best and Dawn Davidsen.
We all perform regularly at The Rubber Chicken Poetry Slam, held Wednesday nights at The East Village Coffee Lounge in Monterey. We all have dedicated a good amount of time and energy into our work, our passion for the spoken word.
And we all were looking forward to sharing that with poets from other regions, in our own backyard. Part of the fun of being on the Monterey team is that we're the unofficial hosts of the annual Big Sur Slam. We get to represent our neck of the woods in front of some of the most talented poets not just on the West Coast, but in the country.
Not all is lost. A team competition will be held in San Francisco on Sunday. Team Monterey will get to duke it out with other West Coast poets, albeit in foreign territory.
For those that don't' know what Slam Poetry is, the best way to describe it is full-contact, competitive spoken word. Poets are given three-minutes each to present their piece. A panel of five judges is picked at random from the crowd, each assigned to score a poet on a scale of 1 to 10.
Judges are asked to rank the work on both content and performance, meaning a poet who excels in both gets a higher score, where as someone who maybe has great content but lacks showmanship (or vice-versa) might get a lesser score.
At the Big Sur Slam, tensions are high. Traditionally, it is the final destination for poets en route to the National Poetry Championships, an annual event that pits slam teams from all 50 states against one another.
The poetry is a gallery of wild, honest, attention grabbing, punk rock monologues. Poets use shock and awe tactics, reverie, screaming, yelling, pregnant pauses and eye-popping theatrics during their three minutes.
It's a cross between debate team poise, rock star intensity and intellectual verbosity.
And it usually happens in Big Sur. But the fires have taken that away, for now. Plans are under way to reschedule the event in October, assuming the fire is stabilized and the community can get back on track.
So while the fire has wreaked havoc on many lives, altered the eco structure and kept the entire community on its heels, it has also managed to silence the spoken word for one weekend. But like the community itself, the poets who participate in the Big Sur Slam will re-emerge, their voices raging louder than ever.

No comments: