So I'm back in Minneapolis now after a week in Chicago coaching the MN youth slam team at BRAVE NEW VOICES. Both me and Khary (aka 6 is 9, the other coach) are very proud of our team. They all performed their pieces on stage more powerfully than they ever have anywhere else, which just blew me away.
For example, I was completely in tears during Hieu's piece about saying goodbye to a baby being given up for adoption, a poem I'd heard at least a dozen times already. But I guess that's part of being a great performer: stepping up when the stage demands it. I noticed so much in the piece that I hadn't before.
But yeah, the whole team killed it. Brittany was our tank, going first in every bout and giving us a lead right away. Aimee was our secret weapon; a quiet, challenging poet who contrasted very well with the bombast of everyone else. Sol and Spencer (along with Hieu) proved that solo poems with HEART and CONTENT can always beat intricately choreographed, screaming group pieces. We made semifinals, and missed finals stage by a heartbeat. Everyone left the festival happy with how we did.
That was the coolest thing for me: coaching a team that only performed two group pieces the whole week, when other teams were doing ALL loud, flashy group pieces. I have nothing against group poems on principle; it's just that most don't truly justify the need for multiple voices-- they're just a little louder, a little bigger, whatever. I like well-written solo pieces: just the poet and the mic; no dancing, no pointless stage movements, no fancy stuff that doesn't actually add to the poem.
Other highlights: the Bay Area's piece about losing language (don't know the individual poet) was one of the best poems I've every heard. Guam's group piece at finals was stirring. Denver had a few brilliant poems. Skokie was cool. "Switch," of course, a New York piece about being black and gay. Robbie Q's set in someone's hotel room was breathtaking. I got to perform my cockroach poem twice during the workshops me and Khary facilitated, and it's fun to scare little kids with evil poetry (joking). Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Epic Burger was fantastic. Rock/Paper/Scissors with Chinaka Hodge was ridiculous. The "fuck HBO" poem was a great moment at Finals, though I don't know all about the controversy. DJ Itch13 (who will be here in the Twin Cities for our show 7/31 at the Nomad) was phenomenal at Finals. TISH JONES.
It was also fun hearing how "weird" our team was, in terms of the mix of people. We probably had the single most diverse team fielded; identity-wise and style-wise. That's always fun. It was very cool putting Spencer, Aimee, Sol and Hieu in a single poem ("Prom," which was also one of the only funny poems we heard all week).
All in all, a great experience. I know both me and Khary are very excited for adult nationals (NPS) this August in Florida, though I know the vibe won't be quite the same.