Monday, January 30, 2012

Catching up on the last two weekends...

It's been a crazy couple of weekends - particularly VERSeFest-wise. . .

The two pre-Festival events were both very cool in their own different ways. Poetry For the End of the World was jam-packed with poets, open mikes, and music: I couldn't catch everything because I was running back and forth, but what I did catch was fun. I got to hear a couple of Call Me Katie tunes that I hadn't heard before, including their last number, which was lovely and surprisingly science-fictiony. (Any folk tune that includes lines about how "the ships are gonna burn... burn up on reentry" wins points with me.) I watched the finalists for the Poetry for the End of the World contest read, but missed the featured readers because I was busy running around to the loading dock at Arts Court to get photos of the weather balloon waiting for launch:

At about 10:00, we all headed out to the side of the building (well, not all: a few people didn't feel like heading out in the cold, but some brave souls crunched out to watch.) And the winning poem (Ian Ferrier's "Letters from the Ice Age") was launched to the end of the world. I had my iPhone with me and got video of the whole thing, then had a little fun at home with video editing.

Then we went back inside to see Puggy Hammer, who were a whole lot of fun, although by that time, admittedly, the audience was a bit diminished and a little tired.

Friday I made it out for Once Upon a Slam, although I didn't have a story prepared (I know what story I wanted to tell, I just didn't have time to get it ready.) It was a small crowd and a small slam - the weather was brutal, which probably accounts for that - but with four storytellers signed up there was enough to have one. Anne Nagy claimed the win with a squick-inducing story about trying to be a 'domestic goddess' as a young wife, and a batch of rose hip jelly gone horribly, wrigglingly wrong.

The feature was Luna Allison with a set of stories called "Girl Fail" - which I was really looking forward to, since, well, I've been known to girlfail on occasion myself. Luna was sick, which sucked some of her energy, but in particular she lit up for the excerpts she did from her upcoming Undercurrents show "Falling Open." And her stories were lovely - from a story about a motherless girl struggling at being a 'girl' and then being saved by the riot grrl movement, to a monologue in the voice of a cross-dressing man, to a story of a failed Brownie Hallowe'en party - how was Luna supposed to know that showing up as a dead person stabbed in the back would freak out all the princess-costume-clad Brownies? - to a poignant story about a trans man living a culture that celebrates the birth of boys more than girls - and didn't know that he was a boy.

Strangely enough, I just found a video that Robin LeWilliam-North made of the story he told in the slam: he's just an oddly creative, surreal dude.

Taming the Tides of the Earth from Robin Le William-North on Vimeo.

Then there was last Saturday - the Women's Slam Championships. I knew it was going to be crowded, but I guess I wasn't expecting the massive sell-out that we actually had: there were people sitting outside in the studio to listen over the speakers. In fact, in a moment of chaos as the last seats were selling, we wound up selling more tickets than there were seats in the theatre (there were some people sitting on the floor who shouldn't have been, for one thing: for another thing there was a miscommunication about how many seats there actually are) and I had a fairly wrenching few minutes where I had to tell some people who I had let in at the last minute that I was going to have to give them their money back. The show had already started, and I was starting to freak out about what we would do.

But, then, all twelve of the poets, sitting in the front row, spontaneously got up - as one, to a woman, without even conferring among themselves that I could see - and offered their seats, and went to watch the show from backstage, where they could hear but not see. I got a little emotional. It was a beautiful moment. Afterwards, the ones I talked to said things like, "Well, of course we did, we couldn't make people leave that wanted to see the show," and "It was actually more fun back there because we could cheer each other on more."

I'm not kidding, by the way: that's how mutually supportive, generous-spirited and group-huggy slam people are in this town. It's like the Care Bear Stare. It's enough to make a cynic run screaming.

I listened from outside, where I was watching the merch table, but caught enough of the show to know that there was no way to guess the winner. The scores were amazingly consistent, and right up till the end, it could have been anyone's game to win. All of the poets were solid. Rage lost points when nerves chopped up her poem in the first round, but she came roaring back in the second. I was glad to have a chance to see more of CauseMo and Scotch, both from the Youth Slam Team, and get a sense of their work. Scotch in particular blew the audience away with her second-round poem.

At the end of the night the scores had all been so close I had no idea who would be named. And then Rusty and Ruthanne had to confer with the poets - there was a tie. So they asked if the poets wanted to have co-champions, or a slam-off. Of course they said co-champions. So Ruthanne went back to the audience and told them we had a tie for first - between Sepideh and D-Lightfull. When the cheers died down, she said that we also had a tie for third - between Festrell and Elle P.

That's how close it was.

Like I said, I was listening from outside for most of the show, but Pearl Pirie got some great photos and posted them on Flickr. Some of my favorites:
Sepideh (Co-Champion)

D-Lightfull (Co-Champion)
Elle P (Co-runner-up)
Festrell (co-runner-up)

Judges, raise your scores!
Rusty (in the front) and me (in the back) talking to journalists at the break.
The twelve poets take a bow: host Ruthanne in the front.

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