Thursday, August 27, 2009

very special show on 9/9: slam team homecoming/Kibera school fundraiser

So I know I promote myself a lot. I'm not ashamed of it. If you don't know how to promote yourself, you'll never make it. It's just part of the job. But for 99% of the shows I put in my Twitters and Facebook statuses and all that, I'm really just saying "hey, this is happening; you might like it." I very rarely ASK people to come to shows.

But this is one of those shows where I'm kind of asking people to come out. Aside from being a GREAT show (three incredible poetry slam teams from MN: Minneapolis, Quest youth team and National Poetry Champion St. Paul; plus others), it's raising money for a really amazing cause, the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. This is a school in Kibera, Kenya (the second largest slum in the world) that's doing some unbelievably good work.

Read up about it. Donate to it. Come to the show.

Wednesday, September 9th at the Music Box Theater (1407 Nicollet) in Minneapolis. ALL AGES. $5. 7pm. See you there!

Monday, August 17, 2009

three big upcoming shows

Friday, 9/4 at the Cedar Cultural Center (all ages!): Junkyard Empire's CD release:
Saturday, 9/5 at Intermedia Arts: 2009 Clapperclaw Festival (get tickets now!):
Friday, 9/11 at Eclipse Records (all ages!): No Bird Sing CD release show:
September kicks off with a bang. Very excited about all three of these. We'll likely be adding some spoken-word-only dates to capitalize on the national championship, and will be touring at the end of the month. Tremendous.

Monday, August 10, 2009

slam team photo and links

Your 2009 National Poetry Slam champions: St. Paul Soap Boxing.
Photo by Arrian Wissel. L-R: Khary "6 is 9" Jackson, Jenn Sparks, Sierra DeMulder, Kyle "Guante" Myhre, Michael Mlekoday, Matthew Rucker (coach).

Sunday, August 09, 2009

we won! and other national poetry slam thoughts

Well that was fun. My team, St. Paul, took first place at the 2009 National Poetry Slam. Kind of a shock, but I'm cocky so not that much of a shock. But yeah. A bunch of random thoughts:

The trophy is a big sword going through a stack of books. Pretty cool.

Somehow, once we got to finals we still had some of our best poems. And we had to fight like hell to even GET to Finals (had to beat Austin, DC, Oakland, NYC Urbana twice, and a bunch of other great teams in prelims and semis). Goes to show the importance of not only writing lots of good poems and having deep pockets, but knowing how and when to play the pieces you have. It was nice to have an experienced coach on our side.

We took a 1 in every one of our bouts, without using a single group piece. That was a point of pride for us. Nothing against group pieces; when they're done right they're incredible... but they're so rarely done right.

And that's really the most satisfying part of winning: I think our team writes and performs beautiful, meaningful, thoughtfully-constructed poetry. Maybe I'm just overly critical, but hardly anything touched me this year like poems have in the past. Too much of this year's nationals fell on two extremes: loud, blunt, not-so-poetic shouting pieces, and overly flowery, imagery/metaphor-packed-for-no-real-reason, capital-P Poems. I think our team finds the happy medium between these two styles and we got rewarded for it. No offense to anyone out there; just my opinion. I like storytelling, persona poems, new angles to familiar subjects, etc.

I did like Seattle's statue of liberty piece, Jared from Urbana's entomologist love poem, Oz from Boston's devil poem, Albuquerque's work poem (which preceded me in finals), and a few others. Obviously, we didn't get to see every bout; I'm sure there was amazing stuff all over. Really wanted to catch the two Denver teams; never got a chance. Chicago and Hawaii are usually fun too.

The second most satisfying part of winning was repping the Midwest. I know so many people and poets from the Twin Cities, Madison, Milwaukee, Columbus, Chicago and all the other spots in between who have really helped me develop and grow as an artist and as a person, so it was real nice to represent for all of them. Also, we get to remind our flyover-state brethren that we can succeed just as much as the teams from the Bay, from NYC, from Texas and anywhere else succeed, especially when we support one another. The amazing Minneapolis team in particular was crucial for giving us energy and support.

This year, I got to do Starfish, the Family Business, Handshakes and Love in the Time of Zombies. That's a quartet of poems I'm pretty proud of. Did the first two last year as well, and the latter two are new to NPS. All four went over very well.

The Minnesota air on my face after I stepped off the bus was surprisingly comforting. Maybe just because it's not 130% humidity.

Yes, Josh, Brave New Voices is better. But we still had a great time.

I wish there had been more workshops. Open mics and slams are good, but next year it'd be nice to have something different.

Need to get some sleep. More thoughts and pictures later.

Friday, August 07, 2009

my team is in the National Poetry Slam FINALS!

So I'm on the St. Paul team this year. We won both of our prelims, won our semifinals bout, and now are going to the National Poetry Slam FINALS for the first time, ever.

We'll be facing San Francisco, Albuquerque and NY's Nuyorican team. And we have most of our best poems left. It's going to be wild.

Just got back from semis. We faced off against Oakland, NY's Urbana team, Orlando and Austin's NeoSoul team. A big, challenging bout. Khary and Sierra both got perfect scores on two absolutely mind-blowing poems. Mike did a brilliant piece and kind of got robbed. And by the time I got up as our anchor, we had a comfortable lead so I did "Love in the Time of Zombies" and closed it out for us. We're all very pleased with how we performed, and more importantly with the quality of the pieces we brought this year.

Personal aside: it's weird-- back home, I'm probably the most famous person on the team. I get the most press; I'm our Grand Slam champion-- not saying I'm the best; just that I'm the most well-known. HERE, however, I'm like the faceless nobody on this team. Both Khary and Sierra are superstars in the slam community, and Mike knows everyone from College Nationals. It's kind of fun being the weird guy nobody knows anything about. Or talks to. Or looks at. Haha.

Overall, this Nationals has been a great experience. It feels so good to be on a team that's writing and performing high-quality work and not just pandering and doing easy bullshit. There's been a lot of that this year, by the way. I'd like to say I've seen dozens of brilliant, inspiring pieces, but I'd be lying. Some really good stuff here and there, to be sure, but all in all it's been frustrating.

But at least we're doing well. We'll see how Finals shakes out. It'd be great to rep the Midwest and take home a win. Personally, though, I just hope the poetry is good. I know we'll be bringing some pieces we really love and have confidence in. Thanks for all the support!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

quick national poetry slam update

Borrowing Khary's (6is 9) computer for a quick second. As some of you know, I'm on the St. Paul team this year, and we're going to semifinals!

We took first place in both our preliminary bouts. I think we're ranked in the top five (out of 68).

Most importantly, we've killed our pieces. High scores are great, but I'm really happy this team is writing and performing quality work. We have a KILLER semifinals setlist, and it would be very cool to make finals this year.

Will post some photos later.