Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Now with more kvetching!

Poetry has been pissing me off of late. Actually let me clarify that. The poetry isn't pissing me off: the poets are pissing me off. I know I'm overly-sensitive to begin with, and I can be quite idealistic at times, but c'mon, guys. Argh. Spit spit spit.

A couple of weeks ago, I competed in another poetry slam, attempting to get qualified for the Houston-area Slam Off, where people compete for a slot on the Houston Slam Team. I gave an okay performance in the first round, with a high enough score to bump me into the second round; in that round, I took the top score. Unfortunately, my cumulative score was not enough to get me into the finals round; had I made the finals, I would've automatically qualified for the Slam Off. And you know what? That's okay. I'm still relatively new at this, so I'm not always going to bring the house down. What got to me, though, was that the three finalists were already qualified. They were just competing for the sheer joy of it, I guess, which is understandable, except for the fact that everyone I've ever talked to from the Houston Team says they want more people involved, more awareness of slam in general, etc. But if the same people qualify every year, and then continue competing in "official" slams, thus preventing other poets from qualifying, isn't that in direct contradiction of their goals?

I think part of the problem, for me, is that slam reminds me too much of forensics (intercollegiate competitive speaking, not dead people). I was okay in forensics. I usually ended up in finals rounds at local and statewide tournaments, and I always managed to qualify events for the national tournament. Unfortunately, competition brings out ugly things in me, and I spent the better part of my forensics career bitter, resentful and jealous. After I graduated and began coaching, those feelings intesified, to where I was constantly pissed off at my students for not listening to me, and pissed off at the other coaches I worked with for second-guessing me, or at least not backing me up.

I started going to poetry slams because I liked the idea of returning to competitive performance, but under my own direction and jurisdiction. Unfortunately, I'm not really getting anything out of it, other than reminders of the dark side of forensics, coupled with the "you suck" factor. See, in forensics, the competitors are, for the most part, professional with each other. People may absolutely loathe you and everything you do, but during a tournament, those people will at least pay attention when you perform, and clap politely when you finish. Not so much in slam. At two separate slams, I've had people come up to me to tell me what they thought I did wrong, or what they didn't like about my poems. Which would be great, you know, HAD I ASKED FOR FUCKING FEEDBACK, but I hadn't. I know when I give a crappy performance, and I know when I'm facing a less-than-ideal judging pool, and I know how to tell the difference. I do not need people to give me unsolicited advice on how I'd be so much better if I'd just perform the way they do. You know what? I'm actually publshed, bitches, so slam that! Rahr! RAHR!!!

*Whew* That felt good. Catharsis can be so cleansing. Um...so, yeah. I'll be less snarly next time, promise. If attending my first seder taught me anything, it's that instead of succumbing to bitterness, we should use it to grow stronger (and then we ate horseradish, which I don't really think of as a bitter herb. But then, I'm just a Gentile fagala, so what do I know?).

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