Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Poetry Festival, Part Three

Last weekend, La Conner hosted the 6th Biennial Skagit River Poetry Festival. Poets from all over the world (and fans) gave (and attended) talks and workshops all over the town.
Due to the length of the original post, this is the third part of the series--which makes it easier to read. Last post can be found here.

The third set was right after the half an hour lunch break. I had a ticket for a different event (something about Grief and Healing), but I thought the Poetry Slam would be so much better. And it was.
All images are from the Skagit River Poetry Festival poet bio page. I claim no rights to them, and encourage you to see the original page to learn about the poets. 


The Poetry Slam was hosted by the two amazing poets and writers Sherman Alexie and M.L. Smoker, who were very excellent and entertaining hosts for this event. 

The event was in Maple Hall, which is a pretty good sized venue for the Slam. Sherman and Mandy were  seated onstage near the podium. All the students (and other audience) that wanted to read something was told to stand in a line so the two hosts could get a sense of how much time for each reader. They only had an hour, and there were a lot of young poets. For the first batch of readers, Sherman and Mandy commented on the performance, and details about each poem, but after a point they couldn't that and hear from everyone.

I will write about the more memorable poets/poems (even if they weren't so good), because those are what stuck out, and I wasn't taking notes. And I really wished I had started filming from the very beginning...

The first student (I believe his name was Andrew) was from Anacortes, and was very eager to read his poem, La Conner. In a monotone and slow voice, he read his poem, which was written in broken English, a very deliberate jab at a Native American stereotype. One line went something like "..Me meet big Indian poet. Big Indian poet make poop. Big Indian make poop on white women..." The whole time, the hosts were laughing, and at the end Mandy commented that Andrew "totally called you [Sherman] out!" Sherman kept laughing and finally said he should have "Big Indian make poop" printed on a shirt, or change his Indian name to that. {For those of you lost, both Sherman and Mandy are Native American, and they were cool with it}.

There was a girl early on who had two poems and managed to get away with it. The first was narrated in a way that you couldn't tell who or what it was until the end. The final lines gave it a twist that sounded very much like the narrator was a fetus about to be aborted (maybe even born, she left it open-ended). The second poem was entitled Such Is Life and was a very personal narrative of how the girl has these set ideals (one may think of the words Christian, strict, and goodie-good), but she didn't care if they made her unpopular. To me, she seemed like a pretty grounded person that was really confident in herself and her personality in the world. One line that stuck out was "I don't use cuss words, because they taste like black licorice in my mouth." This had caught Sherman's attention as well, even though he admits "I love to swear, but I hate black licorice!"

At one point, a very Indie-Alternative student walked onstage. She had orange-yellow-red-frizzy hair, what looked to be a hand-stitched shoulder bag, and earth-toned clothes. Her poem was titled Things I Would Like to Say to Edward Cullen. In a very well written manner, she completely whipped the Twilight series and characters, while keeping everyone guessing if she dislikes or likes Edward--she really doesn't like him, though. Sherman commented that using pop culture is a great way for everyone to find a common bond in a poem. Everyone knows what Twilight is, and brought their own perspectives into the poem. He added "Twilight is just one of those books where you say 'I could've written that! Indian werewolves? Come on, I should've thought of that and sold twenty million copies!'"

[It was somewhere around here that Sherman commented that him and Mandy critiquing poets/poems each time was "Very much like American Idol."]

One of the more emotional (in a way) poems was this tall guy who read his poem (These Words That I Have Bled) in a very tired, anxious, and almost hesitant manner. For a while I thought he went up there and then just really didn't want to read the poem, but then I noticed it was a very clever (if not deliberate) way of speaking the poem--which was about his love for a girl, which was more than likely lost. Near the end of the poem, he spoke softer, with longer pauses, and I had the distinct image of someone having written the poem in their own blood, and was fading away. A very unique, and clearly memorable poem.

Near the end of the set, it seemed like students were just going up there to be up there and say something. Some of the more..."unrefined" poems were presented in the last fifteen minutes. One common theme I noticed at the end was people writing very short poems on their cell phones while in line to the podium. (Some poems include Wonder Bread, Maple Hall, and Sniper). I think this was a trendy theme, but needed some work--the writers had to scroll through the poem on their screens, which meant they could only read so far, and their mouths were pointed at the floor, not the microphone. It would be interesting to tweet or update a Facebook status live via cell phones while speaking.

Nestled in the last ten minutes of the poetry slam was a very funny jewel-of-a-poet. Somehow, even with the time constraint, he was able to pull off two poems, and I was very glad he did. The first poem was about when he was overseas in Asia during high school, and how his friend was arrested and no one believed in him. The second was very light-hearted but still had a very serious theme--racism and stereotypes. of all forms, but he used Asian stereotypes because that's what is aimed at him the most. The poem states he's tired of people asking him if he's "from North or South" and using terms and terms like gook, chink, Jap. and Goku. The funniest line of the poem was "I'm tired of hearing Asians have small dicks; I'm not big or small, but I can still pull chicks."

I think the Poetry Slam was my favorite event of the day, just because I was completely inundated with poetry from people my age, and the atmosphere was very playful and creative. Sherman and Mandy were supposed to share poems of their own, but seemed more than happy to just step aside and let the young writers have at it for the hour. I wish it was longer, and even had a chance to see poets duke it out live, like a full-on rap battle.

Time for bed, and the last part will be written before the weekend. Enjoy!

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