Friday, August 8, 2008

National Poetry Slam, Semi-finals report

Anis Mojgani is the best sperm ever.

* * * * * * * *

So we had our semi-finals bout today, against Boston CanTab, Oakland, San Francisco, and Denver Merc. It was in an ABSOLUTELY gorgeous theater, the Overture Center in Madison.

Talk about Gorgeous. It was built in the 30's, absolutely opulent, with modernist sensibilities. I had to take a few minutes before the bout started just to take in the detailing. The acoustics were great, the theater was fantastic, and it made everything sound better, look better and feel better.

Not that our bout needed it, of course.

Boston's first piece rocked our faces off. Absolutely rocked it. So did their second piece, a poem by Brian Ellis that had both extended metaphors and Abigail Adams. We sent up "Diction" (by Oracle Jones), dom'd up and about ready to explode in the first round. Oakland sent up a fellow who was reading a gorgeous piece off of paper... that hurt him, but the poem was still awesome.

We sent up "Fire Marshall" second. At the urging of Ross and JM, I prepped the piece for the ASL Slam (Friday Morning), and we liked it enough like that (there's some neat rhythmic stuff going on) we decided to keep it for semis.

So there I was, second round, prepping a piece that I'd spent a total of 4 hours rehearsing and practicing. It was nuts, and I thought I'd pass out.

But it went over well.

(Aside: one of the best parts of the night: Sean Conlon, Anis Mojgani, JW Baz, and Brian Ellis all telling me how much they liked "Fire Marshall"... these guys are real writers. Anis even called me over (via John Mark) and told me the specific line that he liked the most. Oh goodness.)

Third round, JM and I went up for the new "Magyarazni (Hungarian)" piece. We practiced some tight choreography, and I could hear the crowd clapping at some of those moments. We didn't pull the score we wanted, but on the other hand, it got a 10, so that was awesome.

Going into the fourth round, we needed a 28.0 to beat Denver and a 29.0 to beat Boston CanTab (we were the last poem in the bout; poems are scored out of 30). Ryan sent up "Vivisection Valentine", a duet with JM and Ross that's gotten mixed reviews. The scores tanked, and we ended up in third place (about 2 points behind Denver, 3 behind Boston - bouts are scored out of 120), but it was amazing. The judges were rewarding good writing and risk-taking, and frankly, that piece wasn't as strong as some of the stuff that Boston had sent up. That said, I heard from Ross how Brian Ellis was impressed by how we sent it up, knowing that it probably wouldn't score what we needed.

I don't at all feel bad that we lost. We made the semi-finals, produced a big showing, and did some really original, artistic stuff with a lot of literary merit. The "Magyarazni" poem remains one of my favourites, and we got to hear some awesome stuff.

In other news:

The group piece finals were pretty entertaining. There were a lot of pieces that were much more flash than substance, but the choreography and scripting were INCREDIBLY tight throughout. One of the highlights was Chicago (Green Mill)'s piece told from the perspective of a testicle dead-set on producing the winning sperm.

This is when Anis Mojgani ran across the stage, while about 20 other people ran around the audience wiggling "I'm a sperm, I'm a sperm!"

Highlight: Robbie Q mistaking the interpreter for an egg and repeatedly nudging the guy with his head.

(Aside: the interpreters were fantastic, and really nice people, to boot).

NYC-Urbana took the group-piece title, with two extremely slick pieces. I normally dislike when poets start singing during their pieces, especially to start them, but Urbana did it and made me like it with an open letter to Al Sharpton.

In other news, it's 1:36 am, and I haven't eaten since breakfast. I'm going to go find some pizza. I'm sure I'm forgetting more than a few of the highlights of today, but it's been a very, very good day.