A Weekly Newsletter for the
William Carlos Williams wrote "Its hard to find the news in poetry." Not anymore!
Vol I, No 7. July 27, 1998
Slamnation Opens To
Directed by Paul Devlin, SlamNation, the most widely distributed (and best reviewed) documentary to date about the Poetry Slam community, opened in New York on July 17th to a rocking full house. The documentary, which highlights the 1996 National Poetry Slam in Portland with both behind the scenes and on stage footage, focuses primarily on competition between slam teams hailing from New York City and Providence, Rhode Island. Currently playing at New Yorks Film Forum, SlamNation is hoping for a successful run, which will help the film gain wider national distribution.
One of the more interesting statements that the film makes is that the performance poetry community does not live and die in New York. It is apparent that the community is strong and thriving all over the country. The Providence team, lead by Taylor Mali, eventually won top honors as National Champions after the fierce, four day, several round tournament. Also performing well were the Boston and Chicago teams. Many poets, such as Saul Williams and Beau Sia of New York Citys team gave notable performances, and even Patricia Smith, one of the nations leading slam poets who was recently in the news for fabricating information in her Boston Globe columns gave a strong performance. The film truly gives an insiders look into the lives of the slam poets, and will be seen as a classic film on the subject of the American slam poetry for many years to come.
Mouth Almighty Returns
In a raucous slam which decided the first two poets who would earn a spot on the 1998 Mouth Almighty/Manhattan Poetry Slam Team, Beau Sia and newcomer Cristin Aptowicz emerged victorious, and are now waiting for the second half of their team to be chosen at next weeks Part II Team Finals Slam at the Chelsea Feast Cafe in the heart of Chelseas growing gallery district. The team finals competition picks Manhattans premiere slam poets, who are competing for the chance to travel to Austins 1998 National Poetry Slam. At last years National Contest in Middlebury, Connecticut, a Mouth Almighty team comprised of Beau Sia, Evert Eden, Regie Cabico, and Taylor Mali upstaged a heap of stiff competition, and returned to New York $2000 richer and a whole host happier after winning accolades as the premier slam team in the nation. This year, a brand new team (with veteran Beau Sia), returns to compete again -- and who knows what the gods of slam have in store for them....Check out RADIO POETRY next week for an update on the final two members of the team and an interview with Beau Sia, who will discuss the teams prospects for this year.
An Interview With Greg Brown
I recently interviewed singer/ songwriter and spoken word artist Greg Brown whose new album Slant 6 Mind is his twelfth on Red House Records. Several of his songs, including the popular "Canned Goods," are in heavy rotation on poetry shows around the country, and owe their popularity to Browns unique ability to express universal themes through everyday experiences. Browns music is like a home-cooked meal for the soul -- he mixes original and witty lyrics with gorgeous guitar playing to create a pure poetic sound.
CL: Do you consider yourself a poet? What is your definition of poetry?
GB: I grew up loving poetry & song & story. I make few distinctions among the three. Lively speech intrigues me. I hear it everywhere. There are many "small p" poets, and a very few "big p" poets. I hope to attain the "small p" class one day, if the good lord's willin & the crik don't rise.
CL: What poets have influenced you the most?
GB: Snyder, Neruda, Pavese, Scalapino, WC Williams, Hardy, Tevetayeva, Issa, Vallejo, the Bible, Chaucer, Blake, Yeats, Robt Johnson, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Memphis Minnie, Billlie Holliday, Iva Bittova, Howlin Wolf...
CL: What place does orality have in an increasingly technological society?
GB: Everybody's yelling. Poetry doesnt have to. It is necessary. It will always exist.
CL: What freedoms and constraints does poetry offer you as opposed to music, and vice versa?
GB: No difference. Rhythm, Passion, the chant, the melody--as in hearing W B Yeats read his songs.
Patricia Smith Debate Rages On --
In the weeks since nationally renowned slam poet Patricia Smith resigned from her post at The Boston Globe amid mounting allegations that she falsified a number of columns, the paper has been besieged with letters and editorial columns about the incident, and her case has even warranted special commentary from the Globes ombudsman -- bringing her plight to the forefront of public discussion and debate. Predictably, many are outraged and disappointed by her deep-rooted deceptions. But perhaps more interestingly, the controversy has uncovered a growing list of Patricia Smith supporters -- from the teacher at an urban high school who used her articles to inspire his writing students, to the poetry fan who concludes that she is such a wonderful poet that her "writing artistry" is "clearly out of place in a journalistic medium." For interested parties who want to keep abreast of events as they unfold, or to add your opinion to the many voices weighing in on the issue, visit The Boston Globe archives on the World Wide Web.
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The Top 20 Spoken
Word Tracks for
1. Miranda July
© 1998 Mouth Almighty Records
Photograph by Lina Palotta