Soap Boxing Grand Slam
Leaning on the wall in a dark back corner of the Artists Quarter last night, after my attempts to find an empty chair in a very packed and small venue failed, I saw what a series of local competitions over the past few months has narrowed down to the 9 best spoken word performers/poets the twin cities had to offer. There was an enormous range of styles represented in this group.
The first poet, although linguisticly impressive, stood very stiff and in a monotone voice recited a poem about apocolyptic prophesies of the grim fate of the human race. This was dramaticly contrasted by the next poet, whos poem was about his fantasies about platonic hugs with big black men. Unlike the first performer he was very animated and his performance felt like a hybrid between spoken word and stand-up comedy. Everyone had their own distinct style. One girl started soft, reading a resentful letter to her mother, and crescendoed into desperate plea of reconciliation with her mother who turned out to be terminally ill, sounding as if she was on the verge of tears. Another poet spoke in a victorian-esque style about his frusterations with dieting. There were a couple poets who's delivery was very aggressive and coupled with violent hand gestures, seeming to be influenced by hip-hop. Some of the poets spoke in very conversational tones, letting the words hold their own weight and not get lost in overly theatric delivery. My favorite poet, and the only one whos name i remembered (Sam Cook) performed a poem about throwing out old tennis shoes and jeans, using extremely rich language and a plethora of visceral and visual metaphors that made me drool a little bit. His delivery got louder and softer, faster and slower, at all the right moments. At the end of every poem selected judges from the audience would hold up score cards, but they gave almost everyone virtually the same exact score. I didn't see it so much as a contest as a showcase of various poetic and spoken performance styles.