Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Next week

Black Pearl Poetry will have its' open mic.
A possible surprise feature and I hope to hae a new piece or two to throw out there.

Next Weds here in Columbus is the first day of school for kids. Why does this matter? Because their MOMS come out and support!
So for those moms who have slaved all day trying to get all those last minute supplies I am doing something for them.

The vendor next week is Kay Wiebell of WARMSPIRIT.
She sells incredible items for the bath, body, and the soul.
She will be in the house offering every woman a complimentary hand pampering.
I've had one of these and they feel great. (and I am still a man dammit!)
Plus if she gets backed up, I might help her and do some of hte hand pampering myself! (only if requested by the ladies though. I ain't trying to get shot over some pumice scrub and a hand that belongs to some womans crazy ass loverman)

Plus- for the first 20 women in the door- A FREE GIFT from WARMSPIRIT courtesy of Black Pearl Poetry and Kay Wiebell.

If you want to see what she will have to offer in advance, go to

Alot more to come!

Last night

Well last night was my official 'gut check' night.
That would be when something goes wrong and your buttcheeks tighten up. It is at those moments that you find out how you are at handling pressure and getting things done.

But...normally that means only one or two things go wrong.
Last night?
EVERYTHING went awry.
And you know what? It was still a very cool night.
THAT spoke volumes to me.
The crowd I am getting is a group of lovely, beautiful and understanding people. And they are learning and growing. You can hear it. Very cool.

So the wrong last night?
Got there later than I wanted.
A group was having an event on another floor. No problem, right? Wrong. They demand to be placed downstairs ON MY FLOOR. Ouch.
They are told to wrap up by 7:30. Okay, tight, but I can work with it.
But they don't WANT to leave. No problem.
I cut on the music to signal the switch in events. LOUD.
They just TALK LOUDER.
I mention they gotta pay to stay?
Out like OJ on the highway.
But now I got dirty tables, and leftover food buffet stuff everywhere and only one cat down there cleaning up. (bless his heart though since he was really doing it)
Add to that my door person is late. I call them and they say they will be there in15 minutes. It is 7:45 at the time. We START at 8. Geez.
And the sound equipment that should be set up? Not.
No problem, I'll just go get it and...what do you mean no one knows where everything is?
So the mics are on one floor, the speakers on another, the cords somwhere else, the stand is gone, etc.

And my crowd was thin for the first time.

But in the end, it all panned out.

Had 15 people read on the open mic list.
Had a GREAT feature in Mrs. Kim Brazwell
Had a GREAT vendor in Miss Gina Blaurock
Had a GREAT surprise feature in Deep Cobra. (this last one was cool. the brother came in from ENGLAND-THE COUNTRY, not the state of New England and got down for us Americans)

One of the groups upstairs for a private event was a group of students from Ohio Weslyan. I told their liason that if they wanted to they could come down for FREE and check out the night. And did they ever. Rolled in like 40 deep and suddenly the place was packed! they were heated when their leader told them they had to leave. Some had signed up on the mic and others wer busy scribbling away trying to write a poem real quick to read. I look forward to seeing them in the future.

So in the end it all worked out.
Someone covered the door for me till my person arrived.
The people who came got a real treat with all the features and vendor and free gifts.
The bar did decent.
People ate good food and laughed about good things.
I found all the sound equipment.
My feature got paid nicely and sold alot of product. Ditto my vendor and my special guest feature from England.
Almost everyone who wanted to read got to.
The crowd eventually came but still not the 50 deep i was hoping for.
The room go cleaned out and was set up nice by the time people showed up.
we only went over time by about 10 minutes.
I delayed the start time so as to have a tight, compact show.

all in all it was about as bad as it could have been to start off. but the people there and my features made it a wonderful night. and i learned ALOT.

1) have weekly meetings with people involved with night face to face if possible. (i hate those who live by email only. you can hide too much that way)

2) get there on HOUR early. 30 minutes to fix anything and put out fires, 30 minutes to make it look like nothing was wrong in the first place. (never let them see you sweat)

3) marketing is KEY. This means not just plugging what you do, but staying in tune with what ELSE is going on in your town. Can't just look at poetry scenes, but all events to better gauge your potential crowd and what else might be enticing them that week. (like when someone sends out an email telling girls to go to another spot because they have good happy hour drinks-need to work around that)

4) I am doing a good job and will only get better

5) keep my foot up my own ass (this way there is no room for anyone elses)

6) Do a final call for all vendor applications. Getting too many and want to set up a rotation schedule.

7) People will spend money if they feel the event and situation are worthy of their dollars. And that is exactly how we should look at it. Like we need to be worthy of their time and money.

well enough of that.

Monday, August 22, 2005

National Poetry Slam...damn. Day Two too

Woke up. s/s/s.
hit club floor and grubbed. talked with lieutenant dan. (nickname for Dan Vaughn of team Milwaukee, who was in the same THEy should post what happened with them. one could learn alot from their time a t nats alone. almost enough to rival the original slamnation tape)

the driver from Hotel blue picked me up and took me to hotel Blue. Was very nice since he was not supossed to do that. Extra cool points since the driver was the hotel MANAGER. even more brownie points because he pointed out spots, gave insight to the area, talked football (he used to work with my Bengals head coach back in the day at a gym) and even went as far as to give me his cell phone number and a code to put in when i needed him to come to the hotel he wasn't supossed to come to (though again, my hotel was kick ass, it had no shuttle..uppity folks).

Hit ground zero and met with cats from columbus. Had about a two to five minute talk about strategy for that nights bout. We had the late bout so I went to catch another bout. (was supporting the Milwaukee team this year and hung out with a few of the members)
Turns out their bout was literally next door to ours, so it was perfect.

Now I know this sounds strange. Shouldn't I be with my team and talk,chill, etc.?
Nope. Our coach had made our strategy pretty clear back at the hotel and it left little room for discussion. He was the coach and what he said would go. that is the coaches job and to trust him is paramount. So you nod, put in your ten cents where you feel it is needed and go from there.
To disagree at that point or try radical solutions, whatever, is not logical nor will it be implemented. Hell, at that point, it shouldn't be.

I get over to our venue and Scott has picked a campsite for us to chill. I ain't really feeling the whole sit down thing and the place is on its' way to being just stupid packed, so I stand by the table, withing earshot if needed.

This bout in my opinion, was one of the toughest bouts of the first two nights and definitely the toughest of the first night.
Everyone with semifinal experience (recent)
A couple with finals experiecne (very recent)
Several grand slam champs on the same damn teams (ouch)
Very poet heavy crowd (ouch for a later reason)

The judges were very low scoring but i will not complain about that. Most judges tend to be a little too high scoring in my opinion so it balances out.
Besides, if the parameters are 0-10 then 5 is average, 6 or 7 is above average and 8 or 9 is mindblowing. A 10 would be technically impossible unless the judge gave it out and never gave out another one and knew in advance in their heart of hearts that no matter what they heard, they wouldn't give another one out. But that is a philosophical debate.
Anywho, what is important is that they were rock solid consistant for the entire night.
One cat got a score a few points higher than everyone else (deservedly so considering what he read compared to what had happened up to that point in the night), and right after his poem the scores returned back to where they had been.
Now to people I heard walking around afterward saying, "Well normally that is a 29.8 poem. I don't know how I got a 25 with it" I say this; who told you that poem was a 29.8 to begin with?
Since when did poems come in with a locked in predetermined score? If that is the case, couldn't you just say, "Hey, I am going to read my poem called___ and it always gets about a___. So how about I skip reading it and you just give me the score I usually average out to get."
(now i use 29.8 as an example but you get the point)

We ALL are used to getting something in some typical range if we have used the poem a few times in the past. BUT, the moment we scream highway robbery when a random stranger disagrees with your past populist vote count? Take some time off of slam.
And I have been guilty of this myself, lest someone think this is the high and mighty route. But I shut up, got that 'i been robbed' shit out of my head, and redoubled my efforts for next time.

Now to address something I said further up-
And this goes out to no one in particular but everyone in general-
If you are a poet at a team type slam, whether you are on a team or not, you should show love to every goddmaned poet who reads in that slam, regardless of where they are from, or who they are. If the poem rocks, it rocks. If you honestly don't like it, that's one thing. Then don't clap or smile or show love as that would be hypocritical and make you out to be a liar. (enough of those in slam already)
But if you dig the poem, it should not matter if that person is from your hometown or not, your homestate or not, your venue or not, a friend or not, or if that persons great poem just knocked your team, teammates, or buddies out the fucking box.
Show respect for the craft and work that went into the piece if not the poet themselves.

I have been the first to hug, kiss, applaud, scream my freaking head off-for another teams poet even if they just whupped my teams ass-I could care less if I liked the piece.

The word 'bitch' has very few proper uses in modern english language.
However, if you "vacuum" a crowd, (the slang/slam term for taking the energy out of a room to affect a poets/teams score), that to me is exactly what you are and will foever be in my eyes.
A poem is forthcoming about you and your types, believe it.

For those not savvy on the slam-slang tip, let's say there are 5 teams in a bout. you are on one of those teams. Each of those teams brings along at least 5 people in tow on the team and another 5 as friends/supporters. Now when one team goes up, they whoop and holler like the Jesus is back for round three. They clap and stomp and scream for "10's" from the judges.
Now one of your poets go up. You notice they get each others attention. They shush each other up. Not a one claps. No screams. No comraderie in the way of "good luck". They drop their heads. They all begin clearing their throats, rolling their eyes, yawning.
You still read your poem.
You move the actual audience members.
But you're in hte lead by 1/10 or behind by just 1/2 a point.
So when you finish your poem and walkoff stage, only the actual audience applauds. The majority of the room is filled with competing poets and their friends and they are totally silent.
So the energy of the room changes.
The volume and quantity of the cheers and claps decreases dramatically, therefore making those few who do applaud quiet themselves faster than they otherwise would have.
Now to the judges who don't see all this but can HEAR the change, you must've slipped up.
That poem can't have really been all that good, otherwise they would have heard more of a ruckus.
Your score is lower than it should have been by no controlling factor of your own.
Others call this the 'entourage effect'

I call it being a bitch.

Again, if you don't like the piece, that's one thing. everyone is entitled to not like something.
But to intentionally tell or expect people to keep quiet devalues not only the poets score, but the morale and act of brotherhood that people have fought and literally died trying to instill in slam.

I say, if you want to do that, then make it known. You and your team, friends, entourages, etc., all of you get up and walk out while another team reads. Or turn your chairs around. Or turn your backs.

Or, I know, show love no matter what.

Or, maybe, write a better frickin' poem.

Agree with the masses and be just another body of mass.
Stand on your own and become an entity.

More soon on day one and two and three and so on...

(by the way, i am not saying it happened in our day one bout. hell, we pulled a two so if it did, then how great is that? But I am saying it happens far to frequent and I did see it at another teams bout and have seen it in years past in ones i have been a part of or just witnessed in others bouts)
that said, if i ain't calling you out, then don't be offended.

National Poetry one and sun

Well day one is cool since there is no slamming. Danny Solis and company really made nats a great one to remember before you even left. Free food and drink almost everywhere you went. Every business you go into greeting you with a 'Oh you're here for the slam? Where ya from? First time here? Got any questions feel free to ask' was great.

I stayed away from ground zero (nickname for the host hotel). I did this and do this for a few reasons.
1- my hotel was nicer (well the hotel was but the service couldn't TOUCH the Hotel Blue-their people ROCKED with friendliness)

2- my hotel was cheaper.

3-my hotel had more amenities i like and was closer to the mountains and a 45 second walk away from Old Town (historic part of ABQ)

4- to have a spot to rest.
this last one is big. with almost a thousand people running around screaming and reeking of slam, everyone being one big happy family and lounging around, chilling out, and talking about poetry and slam around the clock, you need, correction, I need a place to go and get away.
People will look for you, talk to you, hang out at your room, sleep, fart,shit and piss there, get high there, order pizza there,invite their buddies there,crash a night or two there, on and on and on...and then leave. Now your space doesn't feel like...your space.
Don't get me wrong, I socialize and love to hang out with cats and generally have a blast.
But when I want my downtime, I want my downtime. If you knock on my door it will be because you were invited. Now in the host hotel those would be unrealistic expectations and you'd be an ass for wanting it that way. But if you stay elsewhere? No problem. and so much happens at the ground zero hotel that you arthere alot anyway, so anyone you wanted to reach out to and anyone who really wanted to get hold to you can do so. Ready to party or shoot the shit? ground zero. Ready to sleep, sit on your balcony, swim, sit in the jacuzzi and watch the sunset while writing haiku? Go back to your spot.

If I make a team next year maybe I will pitch my tent at the host spot. But this year I needed to be able to get away.

Not to mention I saved money dammit.

So day one I looked around town, hit the pool and Old Town, made some calls to people I wanted to know where I was at, and chatted with the other people from Columbus.
I was tired since my flight was bumped and I ended up making THREE connections to get there. Then while in Houston, Texas I sat in a plane on the runway for almost three hours due to a sudden storm. ouch.
Sidenote- no offense to my friends out that way but i have always hated texas. i don't know why. but it has always been a deep down in my bones-my tombstone must be somewhere waiting for me in texas-type hate. this is always backed up anytime i have been in texas or traveled thru it. something always happens in the 'bad' department. If i make it to go to austin, i am hoping that will break the spell.
maybe it was all those years of watching DALLAS with my Nana.

sidenote 2- Much love to the LouderArts New York team who was on that same hellish wait period portion of my flight. Seeing them and all their genuine smiles and jokes made that part of the trip better. (See texas, for some reason me and new york get along just dandy. be more like New York...minus the pee-pee smell) ;) Just kidding. Kind of.

I had forgotten just how beautiful the west is. Alot of people don't know this but before my ten years in Columbus, Tucson, Arizona was home. In my soul and heart, it still is. It is alot like ABQ. A lovely valley with a decent arts scene.
ABQ has a better art scene but Tucson has more blacks (which ain't saying much folks belive me).

It does something to you in your heart, mind and soul to know that:
- the sunrise will be one of the best you've ever seen
-the sunset will be one of the best you've ever seen
-the mountains will be there
-you can see a storm coming in
-even in monsoon season(heavy rains) the weather will be nice and more than likely dry up by the time you come out of the movie or store
-art and peace are a part of the way of life
-you will see no damn snow or blizzards but will still need a coat sometimes
-if you miss any of these once in a lifetime type moments, don't worry. It will repeat all over again in the morning.

Nuff said on day one.
I'll drop pics once they get developed.

National Poetry Slam...damn 2

This means what you do to get ready for a thing.
This case, the thing is the national poetry slam.
so prep work ( TO ME) means:[in no order]
1- write poems
2-edit poem for content and time
3- memorize poems
4-rehearse rehearse rehearse
5-read in front of crowds/slam/features
6-get writing and performance critiques
7-work/rehearse with team
8-gel as a unit
9-go and whup some buttocks

Now, each person has their own way of doing this and should not be hindered in any way to reach the peak they need to in their own way.
However, if they are doing something, or are going to do something that will potentially harm the TEAM in any way, then the team should speak up and address it, or be damned for allowing it to happen.

The trick to all this is to have a group of people with a common goal. Without that, you're dead before you go. Your first goal should be to have a good time WHILE giving it your all. Winning should not be in the picture as it is an automatic device of the event. In other words, it is a COMPETITION, therefore it should be a given that you would like to WIN and will do everything in your power to make that happen. (notice i say 'should be a given')

How do you 'gel' as a team?
Do you have to be friends? No.
Do you have to like each others work? No.
Do your styles have to match or be similiar or sound alike? No. I would hope not.
Do you have to hang out? No.
Do you have to respect one another? YES.
Do you have to keep an open mind about each others opinion and work? YES.
Do you have to rehearse together? YES.
Do you have to discuss your poems before arriving? YES.

There is a reason it is called a 'team'. And in that there is a need for teamwork. No matter how polished, professional, big time you are; you can be better. Hell, the better you are, the more you need to do because the harder it is for you to notice things askew. The best teams repeatedly in National Level slams are the ones who work on it to death. Ask around.

I believe the secret to slams is to manage the little intangibles.
Follow me-
you've got your poems.
you're a pretty good poet.
you're ready to slam.

Now it is my belief that the blood, sweat and tears, to be cliche', that come out of discussions, arguments(if need be), rehearsals, etc., are one of the main things that separate good teams from poor ones, and great teams from good. Once you come out on the other side of practicing those poems with the people you will be on a team with, once you have went past the point of being sick of hearing their voice and your own and still sat and listened or stood and performed, once you know the inside and out of a body of work, THEN you will notice you walk a little diffferent, talk a little different. It is the internalization of the team's work that does that for you.

That great poem so and so has? You will discover it has some faults. That poem you weren't really feeling? You'll discover that it actually is pretty damn good. Your best performer? You'll note he or she does that thing with their hands and fingers that is a nervous tic and quite distracting.

Not to mention the bond that is formed. Our first year slamming at Nats, we had here what we thought was an kick ass team. We were VERY green about this thing called slam. We all weren't friends and our poetry couldn't have been more diverse if we had tried. But we did practice and rehearse and became this tightly wound unit. We went that year as a team, thick and thin. If we weren't together, it is my opinion that you could still feel the others as if we were all in the room or in front of you as one. It was the look in each of our eyes, to a man, that said I know I am not in this alone and I know this because I have already went thru these motions before I got here with my TEAM.

It was this attitude that got us love, sometimes moreso than our poems. It was this mindset that let us know when we 'stuck' the poem, when the crowd was digging us, when other poets were hating on us or just plain scared of this no one from nowhere team, and when we missed our mark and sucked.

This is one of the important 'intangibles' a team should have, in my opinion. It is also one of the things that was sadly absent from our team this year.

We had 3 very talented in their own rights-poets going to nationals from the same city to read poems and slam. We did not have a team. I would and have said this to anyone and stick by it. While it does not kill a team, and most certainly did not kill us, it, to me, does affect your team, and that it did.

In thinking of slamming on a national level, your personal preparation begins as soon as the last nationals ends. On a team level, your prep work begins NOT when a team is formed, but once you have gotten somewhat comfortable with your own work. Then you go to your open mics and slams and begin to look at the poets reading/slamming around you from the standpoint of a possible teammate. What would you tell them?
Hey, i love that poem about...
Hey, you know you touch your glasses or pick your nose alot when you slam?
Hey, I hear alot of stuff in that one poem you do that could be enhanced by adding a voice or if you did your hand like this to represent____.
Hey would you read this and tell mewhat you think?
When it is my turn will you take notes on what I do wrong?
Do me a favor and act like this is a slam and score me when I read.
Etc. Etc. Etc.

Anyone reading this that slams, no matter where you live-your prep time for next year begins-NOW.

Ditto fundraising.

Next Up- Day one of slam and sun.

The Nation Poetry Slam...damn

What can I say that has not been said on about 1000 blogs and livejournals by now?
Nothing except tell you why I went, what I got and how it affected me this time around.
be prepared, this should be long.

Well getting there was some work. We had a slam off. I won. Means zilch since you are part of a 'team'. The team talked afterwards and that was that. Now you need the money. In years past a gig of some sort has sort of fallen into the teams lap. A couple of those times that gig has taken a BIG chunk of the pain of saving money out of the mix. Very cool when it happens. Last year alot of cats were doing shows on their own and I got a few gigs for either individuals or the team and that helped a little.
This year? Nats was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As in FAR FAR AWAY. Add to this- no team gigs this year. Ouch. So Scott Woods came up with the idea to have an auction of some goods he had been holding onto and other items he got from poetry friends abroad.
I had been told a few months back while teaching at slam camp how to do the same thing.
So I planned on a couple of auctions at the event which I was emcee at the time.

I did not set up my auction until very late in the game. Originally I was just going to let Scott do his and that would be that. Then i looked at the crowd the night I hosted was bringing in and said hey, I need to do one here to take advantage of all these people. So I made some calls, got some poetry. Made some more calls, got some more poetry.
Then while sitting around I thought, why just poetry? Why not other stuff?
So I made some fliers, made a booklet type promotional asking for donations, hit up some companies that I liked or knew had tie-ins to either poetry or the space which held the event I was hosting.
Next thing I know, I am getting free hotel stays at 4 and 5 star hotels, theater tickets, bath and spa packages, dinners from top shelf restaurants, paintings, sculptures, carvings, prints, cd's, books by the case, and more!
By the time it was done, over twenty corporations had donated goods or services for the auction.
This did not include the books (poetry, novels, journals,advanced copies) I got. Nor the cats on the poetry slam circuit who are still sending stuff now (bless their hearts but poets either forget or get distracted).
In the end this helped ALOT.
Scott's auctions did quite well and mine almost doubled that. after a 3-way split the loot either covered each of their plane tickets or hotel rooms, with maybe a buck or two left over.
Lesson: Do auctions. Don't underestimate your power and connections. Prepare far in advance.

One of our team members could not go to nats, partly due to personal obligations (she runs a theater company) and partly due to funds to go so far for almost a week. had these events been in place sooner, maybe she could have gone.

This was the 5th year Columbus has sent a team. We, me included, have not taken the financial part serious and unselfish enough. It is inexcusable that in a town with so much art and money that a team should have to pay its' own way to try and put that city and its' art scene on the map nationally. So my fundraising efforts for next years team have already begun. Like, now. As well they should.

Next up?
Prep work.

This Tuesday and more work

Ok, so this Tuesday should be really hot. Gina Blaurock will be the vendor for the week and she has really nice pieces of jewelery she makes herself. Not the hokey " I think I'll get some glue and beads and throw some shit together"type thing.
No. She has the " Women eat this shit up like crack mixed with a shoe sale-yes my stuff has been featured in some of the more popular art galleries here in Ohio" type thing.
grrr baby. very grr.

Then there is the feature. Kim Brazwell. New nickname- Kim BLASTwell. As in Blast the mic. Blast a poem. Blast that ass if you are the offending party. Not only is she a kickass poet and highly intelligent and witty writer, she is one of the few people on this scene I can and always will love and consider to be a true blue friend. Not the one that tells you what you want to hear but the one that tells you what you need to hear.
In this day of passive aggressive wimps and straight up punks, wussies, and oatmeal people, she is a breath of fresh air.

If you are reading this before this Tuesdays set, come out and have fun with one of the most original voices in poetry now.

If you are reading this after Tuesday and you made it out?
I told you so. Now I dare you to stop smiling while thinking of something she said. Try.

If you are reading this after Tuesday and you DID NOT come out for some odd reason? Stick your leg out in front of you as far as you can. Now with all your might, swing it backward and kick yourself in the ass. You missed a great show. I'm predicting that like Namath promised the superbowl.


get to place on time
get lights set (use sharpie to mark settings)
get temp just right
get bartender that can handle crowd
get crowd :)
get little cashbox
get cash :)
hire permanent door person
seek sponsorship
seek prime advertising company and logo (in other words create bidding war)
prepare for slams next month
prepare for features
add one person to team to serve as back up person/right hand man/liason/someone else to smile when my jaws begin to ache
tweak seating
buy long lighter
a few candles (vanilla)
select official wardrobe for night
create poetry book discussion club (oh no i let a secret out! i want poets to grow and care about poetry! eeek!)
print up more gift certificates
up web presence and print media awareness (plug yourself to death)
get features locked in. (and boy are theysome doozies)
look for ideal webhost. (can't just blog forever)
and the list goes on and on.